Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The Passing of a Great Man

Everyone is mourning the loss of Robin Williams. Through his gift of acting, he has inspired, blessed, and cheered us. In Dead Poet's Society he taught us to be more than what we are. In Mrs. Doubtfire and Hook, he taught us to love our families. His smile is iconic. His soft voice makes us feel love.

And yet, he was bipolar. His family life was chaotic, and he may have finally committed suicide.

We all love Robin Williams for what he gave us, but there was a cost. His life was turbulent, his internal emotions intense and swinging. I relate to that somewhat. Though I'm not bipolar, I am very passionate. But it is from that very place of pain that genius is born.

I think, when we tell people they can "choose to be happy" or "positive outcomes only," we invalidate their pain. We medicate sorrow as if it's a disease, and we tell ourselves to avoid people in pain as if it is communicable. We are increasingly unable to deal with sorrow, to mourn with others who mourn and to comfort them. We are unable to reach out to make the very connections that make our burdens light.

The lesson I learn from Robin Williams is not one of tragedy. He was 63 years old. He gave us 63 years of emotional genius. Because of his internal chaos, he was able to project and make real the chaos every single one of us feels inside. We are not alone.

The thing that can be learned from Robin Williams is to embrace our sorrow, experience our mortality to its bitter dregs so that we, like the Savior, can learn how to succor our brothers and sisters in their sorrow.

Sometimes I wonder at this blog of mine, which like it's name suggests, often deals with the rains and storms of life. Those who read this blog probably get a picture of me as someone who lives in sorrow. But that is only part of me. Just as Robin Williams' suicide is only a part of him. And, like Robin Williams, that part of me is not opposite of joy, it is the birthplace of it.

True joy is born from sorrow. Christ's sorrows bring us the greatest joy. For "surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted."

Stop judging those who are having a hard time, who are experiencing the depths of trial and sorrow. For it is those people who will be there for you when you crack under the pressure of keeping a positive face. Strengthened, they will be the ones to lift your hanging head, surround you with the love that only those who have been there and come through it by the grace of God can show.

Robin Williams, you never knew me. But I hope that on the other side of this mortal veil, you will wait for me so that I might give you a hug and thank you for all you have done. You are loved, and you will be missed here. Your legacy lives on in the hearts of all those who can never forget your self-deprecating smile.

Thank you for your life.


  1. I've tended to see you as almost an optimist, or at least someone full of faith. You've a hard row to hoe, and you're still moving forward, giving us useful and heartfelt glimpses as you go.

    For those reading your blog, that faith and hope is contagious.

  2. Thank you, Frank. I really hope that is true for most people.


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