It was a shock to find out Robin Williams was dead.
I was home when I saw a blurb on Facebook announcing Williams’ death. Hoaxes are a reality in this digital age and I hoped an announcement would soon follow exposing the ruse but hours and then days passed and nothing.
Celebrity deaths are disconcerting; beloved stars that pass away conjure up memories synonymous with our lives. We admired them, they made us laugh or cry.
Princess Diana’s death in 1997 transfixed the world in sadness. John Denver’s death, also in 1997 caused a collective “what?” by the world when it was announced he died in an accident while flying a homemade aircraft. We were less surprised by John Belushi’s death because anyone that can portray a samurai in a deli has to be on something.
Robin Williams’ death stunned us. Asphyxiation, the preliminary reports said. Nobody needed an interpreter to explain what that meant. Hanging.
It’s incongruous to think about someone so zany and full of life juxtaposed against someone so alone that suicide was the only option. It was the topic of serious conversation on social media. The first wave was shock and dismay. The second wave offered resources for people contemplating suicide. The third wave turned vitriolic and angry.
Even his family members weren’t spared the stab of social media daggers. After a few days his daughter announced she was abandoning social media and its ship full of digital rats after hateful comments were directed towards the Williams’ family.
Williams was a social media veteran and his last post on Twitter was a few days before his death. Less than 144 characters the post wished his daughter, Zelda a happy birthday and an image showed a man brimming with pride for his child.
How do things change so fast?
As days marched on a preliminary autopsy report was read by a rather brick-like PIO that fielded ridiculous media questions but made sure we spelled his name right:
It seemed that day that Williams’ last actions in this life became morbidly routine and bathed in conjecture.
Shortly after that debacle, Williams’ wife made a statement that he had early stages of Parkinson’s and we grabbed that bone as any reason why he ended his life.
Other media outlets reported that he wasn’t getting the parts he wanted and playing second banana to a young actress was more than he could take. His incredible career was bookended by TV: Mork and Mindy at the beginning and The Crazy Ones at the end.
I think most people would have wished they would have known he was a hurting unit. They would have tried to offer solace, words of comforts, a kick in the rear, a ride to a rehab center.
I supposed the fall from the heights of an Academy Award winning career to the acting equivalent of working for Wal-Mart might have been too much for the sensitive soul that was Robin. We’d all like to think that his comedy came from a sheer joy of seeing the world and all its foibles and bringing those inconsistencies to light with a manic routine of rapid-fire delivery. The truth is probably something a little less funny.
I got older and learned a hard truth: I become more irrelevant as each day progresses. Someone with half your knowledge will work for half your pay. You can try to keep up, learn new things, take on challenges that weren’t even possible when you were 20 and still some young person will tell you, “You don’t need to learn that, you’ll never use it.” As if the expiration date on your ability to learn or your freshness date as a contributing member of the workforce is stamped on your forehead.
Reports say Williams was depressed and had battled severe bouts of depression for some time. Depression is a horrible feeling: alone, beaten, desperate, demoralized.
Chemical imbalances in the body can make life unbearable. Ask any woman dealing with post-partum depression. Ask anyone whose booked a one-way flight to San Fransisco for a quick visit to the Golden Gate Bridge. Ask any A-list celebrity that feels their career and therefore their life is over.
I wish I had answers. Then again I know all things have a place in the grand scheme of things. This wasn’t Williams’ only lifetime. This was just he lifetime to use his good karma to bring so much laughter to so many people. He lightened our loads by laughing not at us, but near us. He inspired when he portrayed an incredible teacher that few people ever have experienced. His blue eyes would flash for just a moment and you could see inside the vulnerable person inside and we loved him for it.
I think we all want to be as big as Williams in some way or another. We all wish we could harvest quick wit and the ability to see the reality of things.
We need our magic people to be all that we wish we could be and Williams was magic. I think that’s why we love our celebrities, the real celebrities, because they show us what’s possible.
I guess what’s hardest is when we realize that they are all too human.
Just like us.
Rest in peace, Robin.