Carpe diem! and O Captain! my Captain!…phrases that Robin Williams so fully embodied that they inspired our loyalty and people of all walks to seize the day in these blink-of-an-eye lives.
He portrayed the complexity of existence even as he blindsided us with laughter and tears.
Robin conveyed our shared stories in their different slants: the loving dad with a failed career and marriage; the indiscernibility between “sanity” and “insanity” from the perspective a doctor, therapist, lone leader living on the street, radio hero; and on Broadway raised our spirits beyond circumstance.
Robin Williams was the most brilliant comic of our era with his mercurial mind and physicality. He disarmed and enlivened us with rapid-fire humor, depth, and astute observations and connections while making us laugh in the face of our shared vulnerability to circumstance and personal chemistry. I grieve the loss of Robin and that the right person wasn’t with him when he needed.
Most of us are vulnerable to biochemistry and Parkinson’s, which creates severe depression in many people and may have tipped the scale toward the tragic loss of this brilliant man. Though suicide affects a family for generations, perhaps Robin saw this quick death as the most loving choice rather than “burdening” his immediate family with the ruthless decline that Parkinson’s exacts.
We’ll never know exactly why Robin killed himself, but his suicide serves as a clear reminder that no one is impermeable. I can imagine how difficult this choice must have been given his depth, courage, exceptional mind and generous heart.
Robin Williams consistently portrayed the authenticity of his characters and provided his audience the means to laugh despite our multi-faceted vulnerability. He also treated others with a kindness that has been attested to by family, friends and co-workers.
Both College of Marin and Julliard drama students benefit from Robin Williams scholarships, and he regularly broke the “normal” separation between film “artists” and “crew,” such as when he offered a crewmember half of his candy bar. As he split the candy, Robin said, “Look, two bars in one!”
I offer these photographs (from an impromptu memorial in front of the house in which Mrs. Doubtfire was filmed) with gratitude and love to Robin and with deep sorrow for his family and loved ones.
On August 11, 2014, we lost one of our best…a man with the courage to make us laugh and the ability to ignite our humanity.
Oh, Captain, my Captain, thank you!
And may each of you who read this seize the day!