Everybody dies. It is, technically, the only thing certain in this life. Yet the inevitable nature of death does not remove the shock of the tragedy. While Robin Williams was not the first famous man to die, not even the first to die this week, his death was perhaps the most painful. The utter horror I felt upon hearing the news was indescribable. His passing was not an accident, not a result of old age, but as evidence suggests, it was suicide. The entertainment industry feels a tremendous loss with his passing, and fans the world over feel the ache as they reminisce about their favorite Williams memories. But while the majority mourn, the loud minority feel the need to criticize those who vocalize their sadness:
“Since when does everyone care about Robin Williams? Who cares?”
“He was a movie star. Quit pretending like you knew him.”
“People die every day. Why should this guy matter?”
Those people, while free to voice their opinion, are wrong. Their opinions are misguided and misplaced. Few people influenced the world with the same quality and quantity as Robin Williams. It is natural that the world would grieve his passing because he made an impact on the world.
Below are five reasons why the loss of Robin Williams is so heartbreaking:
1. He was generous, on and off camera.
Since his death, news of Williams’ generosity is spreading like wildfire. The fact that so many did not know this side of Williams speaks to the quality of his character. He did not flash his philanthropic badge. He did not wear his charity on his sleeve. He cheered on the troops, supported animal rights, and stood by his closest friends quietly. He was not in it for the accolades. He simply knew what was right, and followed his heart. The funny man knew when to be serious, but also knew that his comedy could lift spirits and save lives. He used his talent to bless the lives of those around him, those who will be forever grateful for it.
2. He played an integral role in our collective childhood.
From Mork and Mindy to Mrs. Doubtfire, Happy Days to Hook, Dead Poets Society to Jumanji, I don’t know a single person who hasn’t fallen in love with one or all of Robin Williams’ movies. I must have watched Hook forty times as a kid, going around my house crowing and shouting ‘Bangarang!’. Even my parents fell in love with Mork from Ork. Robin Williams’ particular brand of zany comedy was something our whole family could enjoy, and we often huddled in front of our little TV to laugh hysterically at his films and interviews. Not only did we enjoy what he did, but we felt like he became a part of our family. We felt like we knew him, like he was our good friend. His influence spanned generations. Some people say to mourn the death of an actor you didn’t know is ludicrous. To that I say that TV and movies truly matter to many people. For some, these art forms become their dearest friends in times of loneliness. If something brings you great joy, then it matters. And Robin Williams brought many, many people exceedingly great joy.
3. He influenced the greatest comedians.
Without Robin Williams, there might never have been a Jimmy Fallon, Seth Meyers, Jimmy Kimmel, Jim Gaffigan, Dane Cook, Conan O’Brien, Will Arnett, Nick Swardson, Tig Notaro, etc. The list goes on and on. Countless comedians were influenced by Williams’ brilliant career. With his loss, the world is a little less funny. But we should be glad we got to have him here at all, for without him, the funny that still remains might never have been.
4. He was plagued by depression.
Seth Meyers, during his brief tribute to Williams, stated that “The saddest part of this is Robin was battling depression. And if there’s anything we can do to honor his memory, I would hope it would be to use this opportunity to educate us more about this terrible affliction”. I cannot adequately express the importance of this statement. Many have been speaking out about suicide with a harshness and a brash attitude that is unbecoming of any loving human being. The fact is that unless you are plagued with depression, you truly do not know how horrific it is. We cannot judge those who have it, but we can reach out and show our love to them. If someone as brilliant, talented, and hilarious as Robin Williams can struggle with his demons and face such tragedy, it can happen to anyone. We never know who is fighting a battle on any given day. We must show love to everyone we meet. And those who do have depression, you have to get help. And get help again. And keep getting help as many times as is needed. Never give up. This world is a better place because you are in it.
5. He was one of a kind.
Ultimately, what else can be said about Robin Williams? He was one of a kind. Irreplaceable. There will never be another quite like him. His quick wit, his impressions, his facial expressions, his ability to become any character at the drop of a hat — we were lucky to witness it, to experience it. He will live on in his films and interviews. He will live on in our hearts and in our memories. He was and is fantastic, now and forever.
From “Inside the Actor’s Studio”:
Lipton: “If heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the pearly gates?”
Williams: “There’s seating at the front”. “The concert begins at five. It’ll be Mozart, Elvis and one of your choosing. If heaven exists, to know that there’s laughter, that would be a great thing. Just to hear God go, ‘Two Jews walk into a bar…'”
Photo Source: www.salon.com