Reflections on Robin Williams
The outpouring of sympathy and concern after the recent suicide of actor Robin Williams demonstrates how this talented genius affected millions of lives.
Ironically, real life seemed to imitate art, reflecting his 2010 film, World’s Greatest Dad. Having never seen it, I didn’t know about this satire on the grief industry until a friend posted a link to a past story from the Guardian about it.
The influence Williams exerted could be seen in countless ways. Within days, I had several conversations about him with family and friends. Reflecting on his passing left me with two strong impressions.
Feelings of Sadness
The first feeling was of profound sadness. Not just because the world lost someone who had more to contribute, but because he had touched so many during his life. The tributes to him noted his lesser-known activities like visiting children’s hospitals and cancer sufferers, and other charitable work.
From my view, I will miss his profound wit that not many comics can match. Although I didn’t see Bicentennial Man until years after its release, I remember his character cracking jokes at such a rapid pace before I had time to laugh at one he reeled off two more.
Nor were his acting abilities limited to funny characters. In August Rush, Williams portrayed a dark character who exerts control over a group of street kids who hustle money to support his endeavors.
Those kids include August, the name Williams’ character dreams up to capitalize on the talents of the Mozart-style prodigy seeking to be reunited with his parents. It was probably the only time I “rooted” against Williams and in sympathy with the main character.
For no reason other than coincidence—we saw it two weeks before Christmas when it premiered in December of 2007—the film has turned into one of our favorite Christmas-season movies. In addition to its strong pro-life perspective (albeit a possibly unintended one), the stunning soundtrack quickly found its way into our CD collection.
When we watch it this December, I will feel a twinge of sadness over Williams’ untimely departure.
Besides the sadness I felt on hearing the news of the comic’s death, it brought to mind the passing of another comedic talent, Johnny Carson. Not because of any similar circumstances surrounding his death, but because it occurred the same weekend as our second-oldest daughters death in January of 2005.
Now, I was a longtime Carson fan. In high school a friend and I used to often compare notes about the Tonight show, laughing heartily as we recalled some of the host’s jokes and amusing gags.
Numb from shock after our daughter’s sudden and unexpected heart attack, we heard about Carson’s passing the day after she died. It came amid gathering with family and friends to share hugs and tears as we stumbled through funeral preparations.
I remember thinking, “Well, Johnny Carson was a great talent, but I never met him. And his death doesn’t affect me nearly like our daughter’s.”
Which is the point. We are all susceptible to the seduction of fame and talent and think if we only had talented friends our lives would be more exciting. The reality is that most of us will never meet the rich and famous. So don’t take family and friends for granted. At the end of your life, they will be the only ones around.