The world today is mourning the loss of Robin Williams. Yesterday afternoon, a friend came over to the house and said, “Have you heard the news?” TheBlaze had just posted it just a few minutes before, and it was stunning. And then when you heard how his life ended, it made it worse.
His family requested privacy as they grieve. Of course, that means the media has to immediately camp out and fly helicopters over his home. Why we have this need to see the family, why we had to see what was happening over their home from a helicopter is beyond me. So much for honoring that one.
But the other one that the family requested was this, “As he is remembered, it is our hope the focus will not be on Robin’s death, but on the countless moments of joy and laughter he gave to millions.” I hope so too. That’s what this network is going to try to do. Some are doing the usual dumpster diving into the why didn’t we do this or that or what could they have done or what did the family know or whatever.
Some people are just choosing to immerse themselves in the highlight reels of Robin Williams’ impeccable career, and that’s probably a better place to start at least. It is truly an amazing body of work. Even in tragedy and death, he’s still making us laugh. That’s what he did. I personally think he was addicted to our laughs. I think that’s what he lived for. He couldn’t laugh himself apparently very much at the time. I think he lived off of our laughs. This is why I think we feel we know him somewhat.
His talent was beyond immeasurable. If you look at things like Good Morning Vietnam, it’s an absolute classic and a masterpiece of ad-libbing. Not only in this but also in Aladdin, he took a blank piece of paper and went from there. I don’t know if there’s another actor that has done or could do what he has done on the screen and just make things up on the spot and make a monster hit after monster hit after monster hit.
But it wasn’t just the way he could make us laugh, there was something more to him, a searching in his intellect. We saw it in Good Will Hunting and The Dead Poets Society, countless other powerful and serious roles. But I think the thing that really means the most, why we feel we know him and love him, it wasn’t just the laughs or his ever searching, but it was his heart. You saw it in many of his films, but you also saw it outside of the films.
By many accounts, this is a guy who was a genuine caring soul. You’re not going to see anybody unearth a video of him berating producers or treating people like garbage. He treated everybody the same. And you could see it. He lived his life this way, giving blood on 9/11 or serving our troops. He did tour after tour with our troops for years, USO tours.
There’s a clip of him performing in Kuwait just a few years ago, and in the middle of the routine, the trumpet sounds for lowering of the flag, and all of the soldiers turn around to face the flag. Well, he didn’t have any idea what was happening. All he knew is that the entire audience had just stopped listening to him and began looking the other way – a little jarring to a performer, I’m sure. He handled it with humility and also with improv. Watch.
He was a humble man with a humble and servant’s heart. Even in the effect that his comedy had on us, I think he was living off of our laughs, but he was serving us. I didn’t know him. I don’t think people who even claim to know him really knew him. I don’t think you’re ever going to see anybody on TV that’s going to give you a clue as to what he was going through. It was his journey, and it’s quite honestly none of our business.
Depression is a dark, dark, awful place to be. What people don’t understand is sometimes suicide looks like it’s a reasonable place. He was battling addiction, and when you try to get sober, you take away the one thing that gives you the escape from the pain. And your escape hatch is gone, and then you’re forced to stand there to face whatever it is you’ve been running from. It’s really hard. And you get good at telling people that everything is okay.
I will tell you that my first thought with my wife, we sat down yesterday afternoon, and we read what his wife issued. And she said this morning, I left my best friend at home. And my wife stopped reading it there. In my mind’s eye, I saw his wife ask her husband, who she knew was ill, “Are you okay?” And he said, “Yes, I’m fine, go,” knowing that he already had a plan.
When you’re a big celebrity, people are afraid to tell you the truth. People are afraid to tell you anything because you’re a source of income. I don’t know if that’s why people were afraid to dig deep with him or that he was just really good at covering his pain. One of his good friends, the CEO of the Laugh Factory, said today, “He was always in character – you never saw the real Robin. I knew him 35 years, and I never knew him.”
People need to understand the mind is a powerful, powerful trap. It is really an amazing thing. Negative thoughts creep in. We’ve all wrestled with them at one stage or another, one size or another, but for some, they burst in like a rush of mighty waters. We’ve all heard you’re not good enough, you’re not worthy, you’re not loved, you’re not worthy to be loved, you’re a fraud, you’re a phony. The tape runs in all of our heads.
We’re all prone to believe these lies, but something happens to some people. Clinical depression is different than just I’m sad, and people need to understand that. I believed them in my own life. My own family, we have had two suicides, my mother and my brother-in-law. And what people don’t understand is it seems like a reasonable thing when you’re living it.
Years ago when I was in my 20s, I almost repeated my mother’s life. I would drive on I-84 every day to work, and there was a bridge abutment halfway home and halfway to work. And every day to and from, I would pray, God, just give me the strength to swerve into that bridge abutment. God didn’t answer that prayer for me, and I was too much of a coward to do anything else.
And by the grace of God and a good friend who said to me one day, “Come to the hospital with me, will you?” that I did, and I’m standing here today because of an unanswered prayer and a good friend. I don’t know if anybody could’ve said anything to help Robin Williams, probably not, but the one thing I do know is that I was saved by a good friend. If you know somebody who’s struggling, don’t be too embarrassed to ask if they’re okay. Just ask. Tell them, reassure them, everything is going to get better, and it will.
Last year, a 12-year-old named Noah was saved after he posted a picture of his cut wrist on Instagram, and he said day of scheduled suicide, February 8, 2013, my birthday. Well, the Internet rallied and handwrote him over 7,000 letters, flooding him with encouragement. He is alive today because somebody cared.
Our battle is a spiritual battle, and not all of us have on the full armor that we need. Sometimes we intentionally take it off. We have an amazing, powerful force that lives inside of this body. It is beyond our understanding. I’m amazed at how frightened so many of us are by the power that resides inside each of us. I’m amazed by Christians who think that it is blasphemous to somehow say that you were created in the image of God, which gives you the power of God when Jesus himself said all this stuff that I’ve just done, all this and more you too can do. That’s how powerful that being is.
It’s almost like that genie that was kept in that little, itty bitty living space that Robin Williams talked about. We’re terrified at it. We’re terrified that we can’t look inside because we might not like what we find or the worst case scenario, I think, is that so many of us fear we won’t find anything at all. That’s a lie.
The best thing we can do is just be there, show up, and fight alongside each other. We all laughed together because of Robin Williams, and we have all cried with him as well. We shared in just a little bit of his pain together, at least we have now here at the end. We should feel blessed that we are able to witness a kind, gentle heart and talent that was kept in that prison of flesh called Robin Williams, but just like in his role as the genie, he is finally free.