Some celebrity deaths hit harder than others, and with his, many felt they’d lost a lifelong friend.
I remember my first exposures to his zany brand of humor. I was still in the single digit ages. I remember watching Mork and Mindy with my grandparents. To this day, I can still quote silly lines from some his old stand up routines (anyone recall the pants by Hefty Bag?)
To those in my generation and younger, Robin Williams was like a constant and familiar friend who reminded us it was OK to be different. It was OK to be silly. And most of all, it was OK to laugh, even at yourself.
It wasn’t all shining and light, however. I remember seeing one of his routines when he was clearly under the influence of some pretty intense stuff. It was still funny, sometimes, but it had the feeling of something coming apart at the seams. Or an out of control thing about to fly apart into pieces. But he won that battle and went on to continue the fight.
Years later, as I first sat down to create my blog, I was prompted to enter a tagline. A short phrase that described what the blog was about. In the midst of a divorce, facing a turning point in my career, and battling a variety of other personal problems, I gave my blog the tagline “a barbaric YAWP across the web”. Why? It seemed to fit at the time. And I needed that daily encouragement. And sure, Walt Whitman is great, but can you watch Robin Williams in that role and fail to be inspired?
When someone dies, it’s tempting to turn their memory into something perfect. They were always sublime. Always wonderful. Always a master at their craft. While he was an amazing talent, capable of moving us to tears as easily as to laughter, he was not perfect. None of us are. He was human.
Yesterday, Robin Williams lost his battle… not with cancer, or cardiac disease, but with himself, with his own demons and darknesses. We can speculate all we want about the nature of his illness, but I’ll stick with the words his family used. He struggled with depression. In whatever form that took, whatever the clinical diagnosis actually was… it doesn’t really matter.
Those inner demons claimed another victim yesterday and the world is a darker place because of it.
And with that…