It was with great sadness that I read about Robin Williams death this week. A man of incredible acting talent, both dramatic and comedic, he became the character he played with such conviction that separating him from his art was difficult.
He was a very funny man. Who chose to take his own life.
I remember when I first saw him perform. He was the alien, Mork, on the TV show Mork and Mindy. He could imitate voices and sounds with such style that I couldn’t help but laugh. His impersonations of famous people were spot on. He made me smile just by showing up on screen.
His humor couldn’t save him from his own darkness.
One of my kids’ favorite movies growing up was Aladdin, where Robin played the part of the crazy genie. The big blue guy was lovable and kind and good-hearted, taking care of his young master, Al. Robin voiced him with warmth and humor. You had to love the genie.
None of the multitudes of fans who loved his work were able to help him. Save him.
I’m a lover of fantasy, so I thoroughly enjoyed his turn as the Pan in Hook. Peter Pan had grown up and become a husband, father and driven business man. It took a wild trip back to Neverland and a new confrontation with Captain Hook to remind him what was important in life. Family. Children. The moment.
His portrayal of Mrs. Doubtfire shared the same poignancy of a father trying to be close to his children. Using creativity and wit, he became a nanny, an old woman with patience, presence and wisdom to help his children through the breakup of his marriage. Reminding them that families may look different, but they would always be loved.
But Robin Williams struggled with depression. For all the wonderful characters he portrayed, all the troops he visited and supported, his work for the homeless and sick children, what he did couldn’t bring him out of that darkness. Couldn’t give him a reason to try. To live. To not give up.
Depression is a serious disease. Many have tried to tackle it with the help of self-medication–drugs, alcohol, anything that can refocus the pain and darkness. Those may help temporarily. They are not cures.
We live in an increasingly complicated world. As it gets smaller, people feel closer through social media. Yet feelings of loneliness pervade our society. Our world. Not being understood. Not being heard. Not being accepted. Not really being known.
There is One who knows each of us intimately. Completely. And offers acceptance with no reservation.
“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; He rescues those whose spirits are crushed.” Psalm 34:18
There are no easy answers for depression. It’s a mental disease that requires careful attention, qualified medical treatment. And people who care.
But in those times of darkness that embrace each of us, knowing that God is there, ready to intervene, can give us what we need to wade through the bleakness to hope. His hope doesn’t disappoint.
Your brilliant humor and heart will be missed, Robin. Maybe your struggle with your darkness will shine a light on others in the same shadow.