This week Robin Williams died, a suicide, from cutting his wrists and hanging himself. He was sixty-three. The cutting of the wrists didn’t seem to be doing it, so he resorted to hanging; he wanted to make sure he got it done, one way or the other, apparently. Now there’s a great deal of speculation about why, exactly, he did it. There have been conflicting reports. His current wife (she’s his third, by the way), has said that he was battling the early onset of Parkinson’s disease, but he hadn’t gone public with that information yet. Others claim that he was in bad financial trouble, while this has been refuted in other circles. One thing that seems clear, and on which everyone can agree, is that he was depressed. He had been to a rehab facility recently that he’d attended before, supposedly not because he was abusing alcohol and cocaine again, his drugs of choice, but just for a “tune-up,” as his publicist referred to it. His problems with drugs over the years had been well documented. One thing is beyond dispute, though…the entire world mourns his loss, and I definitely count myself among those affected. He was a transcendental talent, and I can’t help but think about all the great movies of his that I’ve loved over the years: Aladdin, What Dreams May Come, Hook, Jumanji, Dead Poet’s Society, Good Will Hunting, The Fisher King, and so many others. I’m too young to ever have seen him as Mork on the Mork and Mindy show, but his film work alone marks him as one of the greats.
I think it has to be noted, once again, the link between overwhelming, once-in-a-generation talent, and depression. It could be considered the curse of the gifted, the brilliant, the creative. It seems like these people, because they have these almost magical-seeming gifts to move us so deeply, are on another level, from another planet, not even quite human in the same ways that we are. But so very often, these most gifted among us, the actors, the artists, the creative types, are the ones that struggle the most with drug use, with depression, with feels of angst and of being outsiders in society, outsiders in their own lives. I think about Philip Seymour Hoffman, lost to us recently, Heath Ledger before him, even James Gandolfini, who perished not so much from drugs, but really more from death by food, as he was overweight for the majority of his adult life. Hey, food can be a drug too. Not all “drugs” are the illegal ones. It’s hard to know exactly how to deal with these sorts of deaths, when they occur. Should we focus more on negatives, the way that the death came about, or the positives, like the way these lives touched us? I guess the answer to that comes from the way we view the world, whether we’re naturally glass half full or empty types. I think that, as a fan of Robin Williams, his movies, his comedy, it’s easy for me to focus on the positivity, even as sad as I am about his passing. But I imagine that it must be harder for his wife, his children, those who knew him personally. They were able to see and know the other side of him, the personal side. For them, probably the body of work on film that he left behind is less of a comfort. In a way, perhaps it’s worse that they can go through the rest of their lives, never knowing when they might happen to turn on the TV and see their departed loved one staring back at them, cavorting and capering in the way that Williams was so known for. Especially knowing the way that he died, that he chose to end it intentionally rather than stay here with them. He must have had his reasons, and perhaps we’ll never fully understand all of them. I guess for me, anyway, it’s bittersweet. I’ll celebrate this man, and mourn him, as will millions of others that he touched. And I’ll be thankful that I didn’t know him personally, so I was spared that particular dimension of this tragedy.