Yes it was a shocker. For the first 10 seconds. Then the more I thought about it, the more I recalled that manic zipwire energy, that bipolar-like speed-of-light jump from happy to sad and back again. That grin on his face that always said I’m desperate more than it ever did I’m happy. None of which lessened the shock or dismay. Just that’s what came to mind when I read the terrible news.
My next thought was: how do I tell the children? My kids were all very young when they first got into Mrs Doubtfire and they still watch the DVD from time to time, still reference it in their talk, their fun and games. My boy was only about five when he had The Fisher King on repeat (boy did that drive me crazy but I had to admire his taste) and The Adventures Of Baron Munchausen. How do you explain to them what just happened? How do you explain to yourself?
I never met Robin Williams but I knew a couple of people that did and they both tell me they were shocked by the news but not surprised. They said he reeked of it when they met him, not death but madness, not that kind of madness, but sadness. The deep cut kind. The black dog that always follows you home.
I know a lot of us get that. He must have it had it bad though to take those steps, to think about it, probably for far too long a time. Yes, he had the money and the fame and the kids and the beautiful wife. So what? Being famous, a comedian, a high-wire act like Robin Williams was, you don’t start that journey whole. You start because you have a chasm inside that can only be temporarily filled, even a little bit, by the contact high of an audience’s ecstatic laughter and applause.
Only somebody that has never had real-deal depression would consider fame and fortune a significant factor in making someone think twice about taking their own life. Of course he thought twice. He almost certainly thought about nothing else for weeks, months, years.
Someone who knows told me just now: “At least he is now out of pain. Can you imagine the pain he was in to do something like that?” I’d like to think that was true. Only that would postulate a place beyond death where such concepts still matter. Maybe there is. Maybe they do. Cold comfort though right now for those he left behind. And the thought of what he must have been going through all these years we were laughing our asses off at him.