Normally, when someone famous dies I have a tendency to go dark and simply let the wave of Tweets and Facebook posts pass. After all, whether I was a fan of the person or not, I didn’t really know them and feel that I should leave the eulogies to those who did. This time it’s a little different though.
No, I didn’t know Robin Williams personally but at the same time I did.
Robin Williams was there and speaking to me on my level for as long as I can remember.
When I was a child and ok with light, fairly predictable humor he was there on Happy Days and Mork & Mindy. When I got a little older and had moved beyond TV sitcom humor, he was there doing standup and talking about drinking, drugs and excess. When I’d moved beyond that and had begun to take things a little more seriously, he was there with films like Dead Poet’s Society, The Fisher King and Good Will Hunting.
When I was older still and had kids of my own he was still doing stand up and talking about being a dad and what a wonderful experience it was. At the same time, he was there for my kids as a voice actor in films like Aladdin, Robots and Happy Feet.
It seems to me that Williams was always there when I was growing up and somehow had something to say that was relevant to my age and situation.
Even if you didn’t ‘grow up’ with Williams, you could build a library of his work and whatever you are looking for - light or heavy, serious or funny there would be something there. There would also be options for people from any age group from very young children to things your grandmother would like.
Not knowing him personally, I did not know about Williams problem with depression. The signs were certainly there though. Robin had well documented problems with cocaine and alcohol dating back to the 1970s. Addiction and depression do not always go together, but substance abuse, particularly repeated bouts of substance abuse, should be a red flag.
If there was any doubt in anyone's mind that depression is a disease, Robin Williams suicide should lay those doubts to rest. Williams had an incredibly successful career, a wife, children and friends who loved him but through the haze of depression, he couldn't think of a solution to his troubles other than the one he took.
While that's an important lesson to take away, it would be best I think if people took the lesson without the name attached. Robin Williams death is a tragedy, but it would be a greater tragedy if a man who devoted a long and illustrious career to making people happy was remembered for his darkest moment.
Personally, when I think of Robin Williams, I won't even think of him as dead. In my mind, Mork was just recalled by Orson. To paraphrase Tommy Lee Jones: Robin Williams didn't die. He just went home.
Is there some denial involved? Sure there is, but I think Williams would like to be remembered that way.
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