My Robin Williams Story

I know most of the internet will be talking about the loss of Robin Williams today. Smarter people than I will say things more profound, but this loss deeply impacted me. Writing is a way I cope.

While we reflect on Mr. Williams, we face the reality that he took his own life. He brought so much joy and made so many laugh. Truly tragic are the tears of a clown.

I have been truly fortunate in my life that suicide had never touched someone I was close to. Well that’s not entirely true.

During my late adolescence, there were certainly times in my life that I contemplated it. I’ve always chalked it up to ‘normal’ teenager angst, and something everyone goes through. Maybe that’s true, maybe that’s not. I don’t know.


What I do know is that I got lucky. Someone close to me recognized the path I was walking and helped.

I remember one night I was hanging out at my cousin’s house. He came down to visit just about every summer. That particular night I found myself talking with my Aunt. I remember asking her how many people would truly miss me if I was gone. Sure, my family would, but outside of that, would anyone truly care? I was discounting the love of my family like somehow that didn’t count. My Aunt was always a perceptive woman. I don’t recall now, all these years later, the exact words she said, but she impressed upon my heart that I was valuable.

I was still too young to really understand what was going on when Mr. Williams had his big break with Mork and Mindy. My first big exposure to him came later in the movie, Good Morning Vietnam. His timing was word class and his particular style of impressions, asides, and observations stuck with me. He defined a good bit of how my sense of humor would work.

Later, Mr. Williams’s acting would impact me through the role of John Keating in Dead Poets Society. I was already a budding writer, having published two pieces in my school’s literary magazine. At seventeen, I was ripe to hear a message of blazing your own trail and bucking systems meant to keep you in place. My grandmother and I particularly bonded over the movie which we saw together a couple of times. I even got her a specially made sweatshirt for Christmas with “Carpe Diem” emblazoned on it.

Carpe Diem is the Latin for seize the day. We never know when our lives will end and we need to live every day to the fullest. That’s the essence of Carpe Diem.

I’m so thankful for my Aunt realizing the path I was on and helping me through that dark time, even if she might not have even fully known what was going on in my mind. I can only encourage you to learn the warning signs and watch for them in people you love.

My mom said this on Facebook:

If you want to make a difference in someone’s life who is living with depression and suicidal thoughts, you can. 2-1-1 Hotline answers the phone calls from the National Suicide Prevention Hotline 1-800-273-TALK (8255) 24 hours a day. You can volenteer to answer the phones. Training starts in the fall. Daill 2-1-1 and ask about volenteering.

All those years ago as I went through my own struggles, I didn’t know about things like 211 or the National Suicide Prevention Hotline. If you are struggling like I was, or know someone who is, I would encourage you to carpe diem and reach out. Call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or just dial 2-1-1 (if you live in an area serviced by 211).

Williams would show up again in my life in the early 90s, as he played the Genie in Disney’s Aladdin. I took a girl on a date to see Aladdin. She became my Jasmine, and Aladdin became “our” movie, and later she became my bride.


image: “Warning Sign Character Displays Danger And Hazard” by Stuart Miles Image courtesy of Stuart Miles /