I don’t feel I can share a recipe or pretend like everything is fine today when a person whom we fell in love with has passed away. Robin Williams was a cross dressing old English nanny to us. A professor with a weird jelly substance come to life. A teacher with wisdom about grasping each day fully. A doctor unafraid to make sick children laugh. A man caught in a game with a mind of it’s own. A grown Peter Pan. A genie.
He filled our varied childhoods and lives with a depth of joy so much that he became like an ever changing uncle. He innately became apart of the fabric of our lives. Even when friends were mean or parents were divorcing, his movies, his presence came to represent a calm to my generation. If nothing else made sense the movies we had seen more times than we could count would tell us that with Robin Williams the world was ok, because he could still make us laugh.
The notion that we won’t get to see that presence in action and so many of us missed out on the luck of meeting him in person is all at once heartbreaking and knee-jerking in its remarkable pain. All who are thinking about him today also feel absolute heartache that none of us could bring him the joy that he so readily brought to all of us. I imagine if we all had the chance just twenty four hours ago, we would have given him the largest group hug of thanks and love in return.
The last few weeks I’ve felt compelled to re-visit Dead Poet’s Society, but just couldn’t bring myself to actually watch it. I knew it’s depth and that ending would strike me in the heart and I wasn’t ready to face that. I was only two when that movie came out, so in effect it has been on TV countless times in my life, I’ve seen it a few times, and all I could remember was the sheer courage and honesty in Robin’s portrayal of John Keating. His English teacher role makes you sit up straighter and take note because he’s right, life is damn short and you better try your hardest to really live it with integrity for who you are and not for the expectations that linger before each step.
Last year after midnight had come and gone and I was sleeping on a blow up bed in LA, my friend James and I decided to watch a movie and the pick was Good Will Hunting, a movie I never had much interest in. Sure, that movie made two young actors win Oscars and gave them credible foundations of career’s they’re still filling, but it just didn’t seem like a story I would enjoy. Once the credits rolled though, the standout, the character and performance I thought about for days was Sean Maguire. Walking the sunshine draped streets I pondered his quiet wisdom about life, the loss of his love evident in the way he held his body together. It was as though as I had aged and taken on the ability to learn deeper life lessons so had uncle Robin, yes he had changed characters and there wasn’t as much laughter, but I was still listening intently.
Robin Williams was capable of wearing his heart on his sleeve in front of our eyes and still make us laugh. He was talented beyond words and has clearly left a gaping hole, but maybe his most talented role was his ability to always grab our attention without making us feel like he was stealing all the spotlight for himself. We knew in his talent he had lessons for us and he would do anything to make sure we learnt them and in return we would stand on desks for him, joining together for him, “O captain. My captain.” He taught us in being proud of individuality and knowing that “No matter what anybody tells you, words and ideas can change the world.”
He changed our world for decades with a bright shining light and unfortunately that beacon has now been removed. Thank you Mr Williams for your lessons, for giving us laughter, but for most importantly for teaching us humanity. The humanity of being kind, generous with our hearts and minds and being a good person who also makes people laugh until they cry. May we take those lessons and reflect them back as individuals in this wider world that is now so desperately missing you.