The passing of Robin Williams has evoked many feelings and sentiments and I find myself trying to understand why? I never knew him as a person, didn't follow him as a comic, but I do remember that when he entered my world as Mork, he made me laugh - a lot. And now, for many reasons, I am experiencing a deep sense of loss.
Like so many others, I've found myself searching for answers and wondering how a man with such extraordinary wit, brilliance, success and love, could leave this world as he did. Yes I know that I’m not the first to ask that question, but my desire to attempt to answer it for myself, is important.
Over the past week, we've all come to hear about the deep and dark places his mind took him to. Places where he was left feeling alone, afraid, anxious and fearful. We’ve also learned that he suffered deeply from depression and was in the initial stages of Parkinson’s – a debilitating disease that impacts the nervous system and the mind, ultimately leaving the person incoherent and deprived of their essence.
But why we ask, would he end his life? Aren't there other celebrities like Michael J. Fox, who turned their diagnosis into a triumph – increasing awareness, moving forward and inspiring research into this disease? Why couldn't he have done the same thing?
Perhaps the answers lie in the fact that Robin's essence was his genius, wit and unquenchable desire to make people laugh. That was his raison d’etre. His reason to be. So maybe there is a possibility that the thought of no longer being able to be himself, was essentially life threatening to him. And before the disease would take him, he would claim his life so that "who he was" could and would, remain in tact.
And now, everyone who knew him personally and those of us who didn't, have been forced into a state of reflection, grieving the loss of the joy, laughter and inspiration he gave us - remembering him just as he was.
And remember him, we will. His passing has made me realize that one life can truly make a difference. His death has raised awareness of the power of depression and that no one is exempt. According to the America Foundation for Suicide Prevention, on the evening of Robin's death – they received the highest number of calls – in it's 27 year history. The upside to the downside of this tragic loss is that many lives were likely saved, awareness increased.
Depression is a dark, dark place that its victims do not choose to venture to. It is almost always triggered in adolescence by the culmination of experiences, people and relationships that have left an indelible wound. Having being surrounded by this dark devil in my own family, I know for certain that people do not choose to go there. They encounter a feeling of hopelessness, fear and despair that consumes their life. And we must understand that words like, "get over it", "you have so much to live for" or "be grateful", though well intended, may diminish their spirit even more. As such, we must do our very best to be more sensitive and understanding and to take off the lens of judgement for "we judge because we’ve either been there or we haven’t been there yet."1
Yes, sadly this great comic and human being, has met a tragic ending. His mask removed, we are deeply saddened by what we now know and see. He made us laugh until we cried and now, wondering how anyone can fill that void. They can't and won't because he was truly one of a kind. We will mourn the loss of his genius, humour and humanity, but perhaps the loss of something even greater - the light of someone who gave us joy and brightened our lives. A man who saw the silliness in everyday happenings and made us laugh at ourselves. And now, in his passing, forcing us to think, look within and see the humour and the irony, in our own lives.
If we are to keep his legacy alive, let us all have more compassion and understanding for one another. Let’s do our best to take life seriously, but not ourselves. Let us all strive to be kinder, more understanding, gentle, loving, forgiving and true to ourselves. And most importantly, let's strive to laugh more and often.
Doing so, may just save another life – not the least of which, our own.
May his beloved family and friends take comfort in knowing that he made a difference in so many people's lives and left a legacy of love and laughter that we can all be inspired to emulate.
May his soul rest in peace.
1. Footnote: Frank Raso 2013
Kimberley is an inspirational speaker, seminar leader and executive coach. She inspires people to become genuine leaders and in turn, the kind of person others are inspired to emulate.