I wasn’t going to write a tribute, an article or an essay about Robin Williams. I never knew the man and I am no one of importance or notoriety. I am not an obsessed fan who showed up to see Robin shooting films and I did not hang on his every word.
Two weeks ago, I was walking casually through my father’s house on the tree farm where I grew up, passing through the living room on my way to the kitchen to grab a pretzel when Jody, a friend of my father and step-mother, casually called out “Robin Williams died today”. My two boys were siting on the leather couch in the living room petting my father’s golden retriever; Chester. I stopped dead in my tracks and looked at the television, transfixed by the news with the words “Robin Williams apparent suicide” emblazoned on the screen.
My youngest son looked at me and being the more empathic could tell instantly that I was affected by something. “Daddy? Who’s Robin Williams?”, having never seen Williams on film. I looked down at his innocent face gazing up at me and I said, “Just someone that I looked up to.” and I left the room. I went out on the deck in the warm sunshine and sat down, saying nothing. The bright sunshine suddenly felt cold, devoid of it’s usual warmth.
Robin is one of those people in entertainment that is an anchor, someone that you always know is there and appears from time to time to warm your heart and make you laugh. His ability to instantly alter his personae and utterly change before your eyes (and I’m sure the eyes of everyone on set) gave him the ability to reach through the camera (or speaker in animated films) and touch you in ways that most people require physical hands and arms to. The ability to reach into your heart and massage it, whether it be through laughter or through a poignant performance such as that in Awakenings or What Dreams May Come is what set him apart beyond all others.
The fact that this beautiful man, father and husband died under the circumstances of depression or suicide is what hit me hardest, having struggled with it myself in the past. I instantly thought of What Dreams May Come and pictured Robin playing Chris Nielsen, a man that died in an accident and in turn found that his wife was in Hell because she had killed herself. Robin’s character Chris, literally fought through Hell and accepted her nightmare as his own, in turn, bringing back her memories just in time for him to be taken into her Hell. She, now remembering who he is, wanted to bring him back to heaven, thus saving herself and him from Hell.
I immediately thought of Robin there, now in her place. I’m not saying that people go to Hell when they commit suicide, I’m saying that under the interpretation of the movie, Chris did and I couldn’t help but instantly picture Robin there.
I first saw Robin Williams as many of us did, playing Mork and Mindy (Nanoo Nanoo). Gary Marshall who cast Robin once said that “Williams was the only alien who auditioned for the role”. Robin later went on to touch the lives of so many people in films like Mrs. Doubtfire, Awakenings, Dead Poets Society, Good Morning Vietnam and so many others. These roles he played, these parts he thrust himself into, they didn’t just touch those of us who had the pleasure of watch him as an entertainer, they touched people who worked with him. People like Gary Marshall, Maura Wilson, Lisa Jakup and David Letterman. He had three beautiful children, Zelda, Zachary and Cody and he was married not long ago to Susan Schneider.
I have no doubt that he will be missed by those closest to him as well as those of us that weren’t close to him. If Robin is in a dark place such as that portrayed in What Dreams May Come, I have no doubt that all of us will help him out of it, lift him and carry him to where he belongs.
But why, you ask… “Why did you decide to write an article about Mr. Robin Williams today?” For one reason, the emphasis on how short and precious the human life is. Robin made an impact like a meteor, striking down from the heavens and left a lasting impression that will forever remain with all of us. People will tell stories, remember him, perhaps even make up stories about him, but what will remain true is that this life, this soul, will be remembered for what it did for humanity. For making us cry, for making us love and most importantly… that which what he would want to be remembered for most, for making us laugh.
I do wish I had the honor of meeting you, but you have touched my heart regardless. Love you Robin. Rest in peace.