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Rest in peace, Robin Williams

August 14, 2014

Robin Williams tragic death produced unprecedented grief. I admit I was very moved by his passing. I didn’t personally know him, but in some ways, maybe I did.

Our relationship was one-way, he talked and I listened. In most relationships, that would be unhealthy, but in ours, it worked. He made me laugh so hard I sometimes had tears in my eyes. Now I have tears in my eyes, and they’re still tears of joy, as tragic as all this is. He made me laugh, I can never forget that.

As I’m getting on in years, I’ve lost many that were dear to me. Many of my buddies from my military duty in the sixties are gone. My first serious girlfriend passed away in 2003. My parents are long gone. My kid brother was killed in Vietnam in ’68. There is a long list of people that I wish were still here. They’re not. I celebrate their lives, they each gave me something.

I loved Robin Williams’ work. However, I don’t think he did. Though he found his fame with his humor, he always wanted to be taken seriously. There were two Robin Williams; the comedian, and the serious actor. In my opinion, I think he wanted to be seen as a dramatic actor. Even though he landed some very serious parts, such as in Good Will Hunting, The Dead Poets Society, and Insomnia, he’s remembered for Patch Adams, Mrs. Doubtfire, Aladdin, Hook and others. For years I’ve observed his trajectory, and he always sought out dramatic work, but the public always loved him more for the humor. It was as if he were the worlds greatest painter, and yet he was known for his electrical engineering work. We, his viewing public could never fully accept him as a dramatic actor. I don’t believe Mr Williams saw himself on a par with the great actors such as Bogart or Brando. It always seemed he viewed his humor as an affliction, rather than a talent. Humor was his ugly twin brother, attached at the hip.

In our day-to-day lives, we tend to pigeon-hole people. I have an author friend, Bill  “Skywalker” Walker, that is extremely tall, about seven feet. I don’t believe a day of his life has gone by where someone hasn’t asked him if he is a basketball player. He has no interest in basketball, but loves golf. He recently wrote an excellent book on the topic, Tall Tales: The great talisman of height.  Similarly, I imagine that not a day of Robin Williams’ life went by where he wasn’t expected to be funny. I think Robin Williams was pigeon-holed as a comedian when all he wanted to be was a dramatic actor. I can only guess here, as I said at the beginning, we didn’t really know each other.

I’ve known my share of writers that have a similar dilemma, they write great non-fiction, but really want to write novels. Dave Berry is a great example. He has dozens of humorous books and has taken a stab at a few novels, but they’ve gone nowhere. How many of us have very successful lives in one field, but wish we were something else?

We, Williams fans, wanted more humor, and he wanted more ‘serious’. His depression amplified his frustration and he is no longer with us. We didn’t betray him, we just didn’t understand this illness that is depression. Apparently, even those closest to him didn’t.

Heart-bypass patients face serious depression issues following the surgery. After my six-artery bypass, in 2007, I was fortunate: no depression. In my therapy sessions I was surrounded by people that were having serious issues. I delved into this in chapter six of my first book, Three Hundred Zeroes. It was my hope that the book would find its way into the hands of bypass patients. I often wonder, with the many thousands of copies now out there, how many readers have undergone bypass surgery. Most don’t realize it, but Robin Williams was a heart surgery patient as well. Could it have added to his depression problems?


Robin Williams showing off his heart surgery scar.

There may never be another Robin Williams, he truly was unique. He had a mind like no other. Rest in peace Robin Williams, you gave us far more than you could ever know.

Need help with depression? Get help, don’t wait, we do care:

Anxiety and Depression Association of America, ADAA

National Suicide Prevention Help Line:

  • 1-800-273-8255 (1-800-273-TALK)



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