I cannot get the movie ‘What Dreams May Come’ out of my head tonight. I keep thinking about the beauty of pastels, our next life, world, human reality. A vision of ‘Dead Poet’s Society’ keeps running through my mind, as I see the professor walking his new students along the auspicious predecessors of their educational benefits. ‘Oh Captain, My Captain’ we do miss you tonight, and we will weep for you this evening. I am not alone in following the zany alien in ‘Mork and Mindy’ 35 years ago. I was a year out of high school, a depressed teenager not knowing where my future led, and that show, and Mork’s spontaneous humor helped me to laugh despite myself. But these were all characters that Robin Williams played over his remarkable career. His most difficult role has always been living with himself.
Shortly before he died, Rodney Dangerfield said his lifestyle was one of the loneliest possible. Despite making people laugh on a daily basis, he walked around, the real Rodney, sad and depressed. I have to believe that Jonathan Winters, Robin’s mentor dealt with difficult days. Winters and Williams were both diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder, an ‘affliction’ that led to their creative energy, but equally drained them of their own realistic outlooks on life. Jonathan was a master at his craft, he lived a whole life. Robin was his student, who continued to seek the truth in his own life. In the end, he couldn’t fight through the demons that thoroughly buried him in his personal hell.
We’re supposed to be unforgiving of those who choose to take their own lives before their time. I have experienced losses in my life that have left me confused and angry. I have wondered why people give up, and not supported their horrid decisions. I have lost both friend and acquaintance, and certainly felt the confusion with celebrity loss, those iconic people that entertain us, and remind us of their inherent talents on a constant basis. I questioned Pete Duel when he took his own life ending my favorite series, Alias Smith and Jones in 1972. I was twelve and had just lost my cousin to tragedy. I didn’t understand, I just knew they were not coming back; at least that is what my family tried to make me believe. I was upset. My life went on.
Our lives are vulnerable enough beyond the insidious nature of depression. So many aspects of our ‘pull up your bootstraps’ society refuses to acknowledge this misery is real in the lives of those closest to us and the people that compel us to the silver screen. Tonight, I do weep for Robin Williams because he lost his battle, and chose the only option he believed, having removed himself from support systems that probably held him together for years. I cry for his spouse, who is left to live with the memory of his finality. Her request is that we all spend our time remembering the joy this man brought to our lives. I will do that with tears.