This evening my girlfriend and I were sitting outside at The Cheesecake Factory to enjoy dinner and an amazing Summer night.
Within minutes after we placed our order, a text came through from my daughter…
“Robin Williams is dead.”
My initial reaction was that this was yet another in a long line of social media hoaxes regarding the death of celebrities, yet strangely, the first place I went to was my Facebook page with the question “Robin Williams is dead?”
My friends began responding but they really didn’t need to. After hitting ‘submit’ on my post, it was added to the trending topics on Facebook, and it was there that I saw that this time it wasn’t a hoax.
Many of the headlines read “Robin Williams found dead in his home of apparent self induced asphyxiation.”.
Suicide is always awful, but there is something incredibly abstruse and overwhelmingly sad about specific forms of self driven egress from this life. Certain methods indicate a sense of frantic urgency to end inner pain by any means necessary.
Self induced asphyxiation certainly strikes me as one of those.
I watched as so many people expressed deep sadness over Robin ending his life.
This one hurt.
I think it’s because of what Robin symbolized and who he felt like to many of us.
Robin symbolized the fun in life and he felt like an old friend.
For people in my demographic, we first met him as ‘Mork’ from the old sitcom ‘Mork and Mindy’ where he played an extraterrestrial with a child like wonder about human life. Although that was what made Robin Williams a household name, it seems like the least of the bullet points in his résumé.
People began naming the list of films that they loved; a list too great to reiterate here, but we all know what they were.
For some reason, I always had a fondness for ‘Bicentennial Man’. I know it wasn’t well received critically, but there was something about an android finding the humanity in itself that worked for me.
Check it out if you’ve never seen it.
Many others mentioned his stand up comedy.
I have to confess something right now. I HATED Robin Williams stand up. I still, even in this moment, swear the viewer themselves had to be on cocaine to follow that rambling stream of consciousness! I hated his stand up so much, that for many years it forbid me from even considering his acting work.
But goddamn could the man act.
There are very few working actors who could evoke the emotion from an audience that Robin Williams could. The guy made you feel what you were supposed to feel. When he delivered that wide elvish smile, you felt the happiness that he was supposed to be exuding. When he broke down, you started to tear…um…I mean…things would coincidentally get in your eye at that exact moment.
For that, Hollywood is a much lesser place today.
I think ultimately, Robin’s death serves as a brutal reminder that money and fame won’t cure depression.
The idea that a man as adored as Williams could still feel so alone and helpless is horrifying in it’s magnitude.
But this is the reality of the human condition sometimes.
Sometimes…no matter what you do, and how many resources are at a person’s disposal, they’ve just had enough of their time here.
That realization of powerlessness to those left behind can be as profound and damaging as the loss itself.
A couple weeks ago, my girlfriend and I watched ‘The Angriest Man in Brooklyn’ which I guess will now go down as one of Robin’s final films. In it, he plays a man that believes he has 90 minutes to live, so he attempts to right all the wrongs in his life, and along the way learns a new appreciation for a life that had previously taken so much from him that he had given up who he was and became a bitter shell of a man.
In one of the final scenes, he says to his son “My tombstone will read “Here lies Henry Altmann 1951 – 2014….but the numbers don’t matter. Only the dash matters.”
Judging from the impact that the loss of a man most never met has had on people all across social media, Robin William’s dash is one of the greatest you could ask for.
Rest in peace, sir.