As noted in our newsletter, this was written when it happened, but I didn’t blog it at that time. Now, though, the commentary on FaceBook continues and is turning dark. We decided maybe it was still timely to offer something that could perhaps move us back toward a more thoughtful place. CJ
Undone. Unravelled. Awash in tears. Adrift in a sea I can’t name.
Losing Robin Williams was like losing a little piece of each of us. He had a remarkable way of poking fun at any person, group or situation without ever diminishing anyone. He could touch our hearts or tickle our funny bone or both all at once. He could poke fun without ever poking an eye with a sharp stick. To be who he was to all of us was to be able to clearly imagine walking in our shoes… but then he’d have described them and walked as if they had velcro or vaseline – or both – on the sole. He could get in your skin, but never cause a bone of contention. He could play a rich man poor in spirit or a poor man blessed with gratitude if the part called for it.
Robin could do what he did in comedy and in drama – he could make us laugh in the midst of our tears – because he knew more about us than we knew about him. He had a sixth and maybe a seventh sense about more than what most of us notice in one another. He sensed the nuance of a glance, the subtleties of a fleeting moment, the meaning of a silent pause. He believed in our pain, in our joy, in our good intentions and our foibles. For that, he had to pay attention to people, and to reflect, and to conjure up all the minutia he saw into an internal experience that he could then give back to us, served up on a silver tray – or a silver screen – with an engaging smile. And what we loved was recognizing ourselves and one another in the midst of his hilarity.
So all I can do is ask myself the questions I so often find myself asking others in the midst of their losses. What does it mean that we’ve lost this extraordinary soul? For me, perhaps it means that even understanding others’ pain and misery doesn’t make your own go away. It allows you to “be there” for others in a compassionate way, but understanding isn’t enough to get us through overwhelmingly difficult times. After a stellar performance with an audience in an ovation, he once commented on the irony that he was able to bring others so much joy, but couldn’t do that for himself.
Robin Williams died alone. So heartbreaking to imagine the torment or the emptiness or the screaming sirens of that aloneness. And what we learned in that moment that changed our lives forever is that, although we couldn’t see it, a part of him was incredibly alone while he lived.
So many of you have heard me say, “The way we get through tough times is … together.” By reflecting inward and reaching out. By listening more and talking less. By being there and staying aware. By taking time and giving love. By sharing strength and accepting support. By holding on and holding hands.
Robin Williams PDF Version
Thank you, Cheri, for this thoughtful reminder to reflect inward and reach out. To listen more and talk less. To be there and stay aware. To take time and give love. To share strength and accept support, and to hold on and hold hands. So often I find myself lost in my own backwash of troubles, and I forget to reach out to others as a way of also taking care of myself. You’ve been my teacher for twenty-five years, and once again your wisdom hit home and has caused me to pause and think about what I could do differently.
Thanks for your comments, Ruth. I look at how many adults touch the life of each student, and how so often it is just that one person who catches the sadness… one teacher who sees a change to darker thoughts in writing assignments… one playground staff person who sees the student who is alone… We all play a role. For life in general, none of us makes THE difference, but we all make A difference in the life of every student we know. But when it comes to suicide, it really often is the ONE person who recognizes signs of risk in one student that makes ALL the difference. Thanks again…
Beautifully said Cheri, thank you. Suicide is such a sensitive issue and so hard for many of us to talk about with others until we are touched personally in some way whether it be someone around us, in our personal lives in some big or small way, or in the media such as the case with Robin Williams’ death. We tend to at times forget to be there for others and pay attention to those surrounding us when our lives are so busy. I receive so much insight from you, and have learned so much, the reminders are greatly appreciated.
It is refreshing to
read such a beautifully expressed opinion about this topic. I have
read a lot of posts about Robin Williams and suicide in general, and
it saddens me how many people do not understand, or are out of touch
with suicide and depression. Your last paragraph states it so well.
From experience I know that it makes a world of difference just
having someone willing to set aside time to love, care, listen, and
show support. I will be sharing your blog on my Facebook page.