The Death of Robin Williams

Feste the Fool: “This cold night will turn us all to fools and madmen.” —Shakespeare King Lear, Act III, Scene 4

Robin Williams is dead. He killed himself.

Both of these statements shock and sadden me. Put together, they are almost unbearable. Since his passing the nights have been cold indeed, and it’s taken days to reach a place where I can try to write about him.

Caren Miosga is an anchor for the major evening news program in Germany, and German journalism is a serious business. Caren reported the news of his death barefoot and standing on top of her news desk. “O Captain! My Captain!” she recited from there. There is no more fitting way to salute him.Moderatorin Miosga auf dem "Tagesthemen"-Tisch (Video-Standbild): "einer der größten Schauspieler"

I remember when he burst onto the world stage. He was incredibly funny, his wit like lightening. His brain and mouth moved so fast that it still takes repeat viewing (and listening) to catch up to him. And even then you wonder how he could improvise like that. He would recite Shakespeare – and play all the roles himself.

A good word to describe him is irrepressible. Robin seemed impossible to hold back, stop, or control. And he embodied the next meaning of the word: very lively and cheerful. But like all clowns he knew the flip side of laughter is sadness. He was a fiercely observant social critic and he spoke about what he saw. As our greatest court jesters have always done, Robin told us the truth.

During the 1980s I lived in San Francisco, and I remember going with friends to the newly opened Hard Rock Café. As we sat there, a murmur rippled through the big room. Robin Williams, two women, and two very young children had just been seated for lunch. As the news spread, people stopped eating and turned in their chairs to stare.

Robin was a guy who’d simply come in for lunch, and looked uncomfortable with all the attention. But he signed autographs and smiled. I was struck by how youthful he looked, and how shy. He didn’t have a glamorous aura. I tried to figure out what was remarkable about how he looked. In the end, I was startled by a sense that he was terribly vulnerable.

And that is the secret to his magic. Robin Williams didn’t just make us laugh. He made us feel the absurdity of our prejudices and fears, and yes, our hopes and desires, too. He reminded us at all times of our humanity. He was searingly honest about his own short comings and dreams. He turned himself inside out with a candor and lovingkindness that made his humor a healing force.

Our world is a sadder place for his passing. It’s a better place for his having lived and shared his immense gifts with us.

He is already greatly missed.

R.I.P. Robin McLaurin Williams 21 July 1951 – 11 August 2014

Advertisements

31 thoughts on “The Death of Robin Williams

    • Thank you… it took me the better part of two weeks to write this post. I was still hunting for the right words this morning. His death touches something very deep in all of us.

      • Yeah, it really really does–and I think it’s because of that vulnerability you mention–it elicits a vulnerability in us as a response.

  1. Perfectly worded. I feel very unsettled by his passing and your thoughts struck a cord deep within. I keep trying to imagine what may have gone through his mind when he made the decision to end it all. He will be greatly missed and it breaks my heart that such a talented soul had to endure so much suffering on the inside. May he rest in peace.

  2. Hi Jadi, I remembered this encounter immediately after I heard of his death. It was you, me and Judy Fujimoto having lunch. Of course with my eagle eye I spotted him as soon as he walked over to his table with his family. I remembering saying to the two of you “look there is Robin Williams” and you two two said “no…where? And with my insistent attitude, “I said right there across from us. Look at his body language. It’s him!” I probably raised my voice a little too loud and if I remember correctly you probably told me to be quiet. I observed him interacting with his children and could clearly see his clown like actions with his young children.

    • Yes! I keep thinking about that afternoon. I don’t remember him clowning with his kids. What a great memory of him for you to have. And if you were loud, you weren’t the only one!

  3. Wonderfully said. I have felt bad that other deaths aren’t as mourned, but I realize that most of them are due to old age and you expect it and Robin’s was so sudden and shocking. And he definitely did make and leave the hugest impression on our culture. He has impacted a wide variety of people and in more than one way. I grew up with him and his talent is irreplaceable. There has been and will be no other like him. I am saddened to the core. A light has gone out.

  4. A lovely tribute Jadi, and what a wonderful thing the German newsreader reciting oh my captain… those moments in the film when you wondered who had moral courage were so memorable….
    For sheer brilliance I find Robin’s part in The Birdcage constantly fascinating. In a brilliant cast he was still the star… and he was always utterly loveable…have just watched it again for the umpteenth time… his wit, timing, humanity, fun ..it’s all there…

  5. I got completely lost in this article. Wonderfully written. 🙂 Robin Williams will, most certainly, be missed.
    Thanks for stopping by my blog, and guiding me back to yours. 🙂

  6. Pingback: # 99 # 99 # 99 # 99 # 99 # | jadicampbell

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s