Requiescat in Pace Robin Williams

Robin Williams_Courtesy AP

I need to write this now. Right now.

You don’t need to read this but I need to say this, not because it needs to be said but because I need to say it.

I need to get the words out at this moment because the conjecture has already started, speculation is rampant and the truth (which may or may not ever come out and is sincerely none of our business) may uncover things that are too sad, too hurtful or even hideous to conceive.

Suicide is like that. Depression is real and can be all consuming. Answers are rarely complete. And we are each only human.

At the moment, my remaining ignorance (save for the one truth that is still a bit unreal) is bliss.

In this moment – which is very much not about me – will be now arrogantly be made about me by me. You’ve been warned.

It was 1978 and the ridiculously silly TV Show “Mork and Mindy” was a first season hit, a new series that was born of an episode of “Happy Days” featuring a performer no one had heard of before but would never forget.

I was in eighth grade and my hidden, inner performer was intrigued. Hmmmm.

But it was his comedy album that captivated me…”Reality, What a Concept” along with the HBO special of the same time. Just this weekend I watched a clip of it on YouTube. He gave me another moment of joy while in his life at that moment he might have been hurting.

The birth of a comedy legend. What creativity, what energy.

What was this thing called improvisation?

How does one think so quickly with such humor?

Where do those voices come from?

And who else? Jonathan Winters? Red Skelton? Unknowingly, he was their student. I was his.

I memorized the album, I recited it for friends, I created new ideas from it and I let free form ideas flow out of my mouth (sometimes with success and sometimes not so much). But the tightrope walk was exhilarating…people laughed…better yet girls laughed. I was on to something.

As he went on he took chances in his career. He dared. He moved forward. I was not so brave.

I found shelter from such public daring, more often than not, behind a microphone or behind a desk. A toe in the water, maybe a foot, but never full immersion.

Timid, scared, unsure? Probably. Shy and introverted? Without question, yes.

But I watched him, learned and took to the stage when I felt sure enough that I could cause some enjoyment but little damage.

My words and ideas became less like him and more like me. That was good at least. And I couldn’t tell you from where in my brain the ideas came from – then or now. But that well would have remained untapped, I think, without him.

I was not an actor, I was barely a performer but I did my best when my time came. WWRD?

All this while, unto this moment, I laughed, I took mental notes, I listened, I observed his performance. I marveled still at this simple, human performance machine.

Now, he has created a void within me he didn’t know he had been responsible for filling all this time. So empty, yet paling in comparison to the void felt by his true family and friends. And maybe it was an unbearable painful void within himself that brought him down. Conjecture…shame on me.

Why?!!! Still I wonder.

Well, we people of good conscientious know the answer to that really isn’t our business. Can we ever again show some respect in a day when gossip passes for news?

Some matters shouldn’t be a Movie of The Week or some kind of hit film. Probably because we lack his creativity, it will be anyway, because of our society’s over-developed fascination with celebrity. It shouldn’t be that way.

Much in the same way one person shouldn’t make the tragic and unfathomable death of a kind of a long-distance teacher about him.

But he did anyway. And he meant it with all the respect and admiration he had banked in his heart for someone he never met and didn’t know. A poor man’s tribute.

With thanks and many prayers, good-bye and God bless.

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8 Responses to “Requiescat in Pace Robin Williams”

  1. I understand the sense of loss & incomprehension that you’re feeling Peter. I don’t normally get wrapped up in celebrities but for Robin has been on my list for a very long time now one of those people I knew I would be devastated over losing. The fact that it apparently was at the hands of depression, meaning he was taken from us far sooner than he should have been just breaks my heart.

    Just last week I was sharing a “Reality, what a concept” with someone who’d never experienced it before and I was thrilled and elated to be able to do that. I’m at a complete loss as to how to comprehend that I’m so upset about someone I’ve never met before. Such a tragedy. I hope he’s found peace.

  2. Thank you for sharing Peter. I just want to sit and cry at this sad and tragic loss of comedy and improv genius. I was about the same age as you when I discovered “Mork from Ork”. I whined for days until my mom caved in and bought me the ‘mork’ suspenders. I too wondered how one man could balance and share so many voices in his head at one time. So many laughs. So many amazing acting roles. So many characters brought to life. And tonight, so many tears. God Bless.

  3. What a beautifully written tribute to a kind, talented man. I am struck by how many similar feelings I had when I watched him perform. I’m an “introvert” with an “extrovert” wanting to breakout sometimes… I just have that “shy” side. It’s just me… and I am pretty OK with that.. 😉

    With that said, depression is a tough thing to fight. I know, because it also took a family member of mine in this manner. Suicide is a bitch and it leaves a mess of heartache, confusion and sadness. He must have felt there was no way out of his pain… which hurts my heart that he was feeling hopeless. There are never any clear answers of “why”, for the loved ones left behind in the wake of suicide.

    Many who are depressed (not all, but some), will “self medicate”, and I feel there should be no judgement. He was trying to get help and that to me was a Herculean decision… in that moment… to seek help. Self reflection moment (not just for me but all reading): Truly… how hard is it sometimes to ask for help when you are feeling so overwhelmed? He tried to… that is huge and strong in character in my eyes.

    I am lifting up prayers to his children, his family, all who loved him and to all those touched by him and great talent.

    Thank you Peter for sharing your perspective… it is a wonderful tribute.

  4. Hi Lauren,

    It’s a great tribute to not only a person’s talent but their human spirit as well that hearts can be broken and tears can be shed by perfect strangers who were so impacted by a person’s life whom we only knew from the periphery.

    Without thinking about it, we thought we’d always have him. Life is a gift, not a guarantee. Maybe this is one of those world-wide reminders to appreciate it.

    What a hard reminder for us all.

    Best always,
    -Peter

  5. Derek,

    I love with my whole heart that you “needed” those Mork suspenders.

    That is exactly the kind of joyous, happy thought that brings people through crazy circumstances – even the dearly departed is a performer we only appreciated at a distance.

    Happy thoughts. Just wonderful. Thank you so much.

    Best always,
    – Peter

  6. Susan,

    Thank you for your kind words and for sharing what I am sure are difficult personal memories to dredge up (although having been through similar family issues, one doesn’t really have to dig too deep).

    I guess one of our collective take-aways is to improve on something I’ve long said is vital to communication (but something I’m still not good at): listening. We need to try and really listen to each other – doing so helps people in ways we don’t even realize, I think.

    It won’t fix every problem but I don’t think it makes a bad situation worse to be a good listener. Again, thank you very much.

    Best always,

    – Peter

  7. […] unfortunate that two successive blog posts are remembrances of the dead. First Robin Williams and now legendary NBC announcer Don […]

  8. Yes, Peter, to all of it, even a year later. I miss him terribly. What an incredible man! What a terrible loss.
    Our daughters have become fans of Mork & Mindy, and Aladin’s genie, and I look forward to introducing them to so many other characters the brilliant Robin Williams made come alive through his incredible career. He was like a comet who shot across our sky and burned out far too soon. Blessed be his memory.

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