There are three men I grew up with, making me laugh, cry, scream, reflect. Those men are Robin Williams, Tom Hanks, and Harrison Ford. They helped mold me into who I am today. Maybe its because they all remind me of my dad in different ways, or because my dad loved them too. Anyway, I lost one of them yesterday. I rarely cry over celebrity deaths, I feel the sadness over the loss of a great talent, but not often do I feel personally affected. I do today.
Robin Williams is usually remembered as a comedian. I remember The Fisher King and Awakenings, how they left me with the reminder to be grateful for what I had, no matter what was happening in my life. I remember Dead Poets Society, how it spoke to the very core of what I struggled with as a teen. I remember One Hour Photo and Insomnia keeping me up at night for weeks because of the darkness it revealed in ourselves. I remember What Dreams May Come, the one movie that has made me cry so hard and for so long that I thought I might never recover. The movie that encapsulates my deepest fears in life.
Even his comedies touched on something much deeper, Good Morning Vietnam, Patch Adams, Mrs. Doubtfire, were more than just good movies, they imprinted on me the courage to fight for what I believed, to go to great lengths for my kids, and to bring the light of laughter into dark places.
I was introduced to Mr. Williams as he played the Frog Prince in Fairie Tale Theater. He was sweet and silly, I instantly fell in love. Then Popeye, he and Shelley Duvall as Olive Oyl will always personify those characters in my mind. As a child, he helped guide me with love, laughter, and wise words in hard moments through movies like Hook, Fern Gully, and Mrs. Doubtfire. As I grew up, he was with me, whether funny or frightening, silly or somber, I could always count on him to open my eyes to a new perspective or remind me of the beauty found in life if you really look. How I ache to realize that all the lessons he taught me were the ones he struggled to learn himself. I cannot believe and understand how a man who was so deeply loved and admired could feel so unappreciated and alone. I’m struck with the guilt that I have the other times I’ve lost someone to the devastation of suicide, the weight of the accusation “I should’ve said something. I should’ve loved, honored, appreciated this person more or louder or more intentionally. How could he not have known?” Yet, he didn’t. And my life, along with millions of others, are emptier now.
I feel foolish for crying, which I am and in front of my husband and kids, seeing as I only know his characters, and the public persona he showed in his stand up and interviews, but these characters shaped me. Who Robin Williams became on camera helped to mold me, like a father, like a friend, and I feel his loss deeply.