NOTE: I will continue with my posts on Europe, later this evening. In light of today’s tragic loss, however, these words need to be said.
When I was ten years old, I asked a neighbour if I could borrow her copy of “Look Magazine”. It had a feature on Red Skelton, then a very popular television comedian. Mr. Skelton had a host of personas, which he trotted out, week by week, to help others feel happier. I liked many of them, and often sat up past nine, to catch his latest performances.
The article dealt with his struggles-alcoholism and depression. It worried the heck out of me, and was a bit confusing to my ten-year-old mind. How could a man who was so excellent at entertaining others be so downtrodden, in his own life? My Dad’s answer was very clear: “This is Red’s job. Actors often have a hard time, when they go home and have to deal with the same messes and dilemmas we each have to face.” I lit a candle for Red Skelton, the next time I went to church. He lived a fair number of years afterward, so maybe the outpouring of well wishes from many of us, after that article, had a positive effect.
Humour and sadness; light and shadow; front and back- the traditional theatrical memes of European theater show a laughing face and a sorrowful face. We each get to go through plenty of both. For most of us, though, there is a lifeline: Faith; friendships; life partners. Those who, as the departed Robin Williams expressed it “Have people who make you feel alone”, are so often at far more risk than the busy beavers who surround them seem to realize.
So, we are left to pick up the pieces of our shattered mirth. Mr. Williams’ wife, daughter and extended family will, one would hope, have time to grieve, to process and to know that, underneath all the pain, which itself was buried under the humour, there was the most intense love for humanity- ever struggling to get out and to find its way to the surface.
In his work, I saw that of Robin Williams, in his “Patch Adams”, “Good Will Hunting”, “Mrs. Doubtfire”, “Dead Poets Society”- even in his minor works, like “Hook” and “One Hour Photo”. Love for mankind, however quirkily or obliquely presented, was the man’s cornerstone. This is what one ought recall and remember.
For us who have another day, another year, another fighting chance- perhaps, just perhaps, there will be an outstretched hand to someone who is known to be struggling, someone who feels alone in the crowd. Maybe then, the tears shed by many of us this day will meet with fertile ground. Rest in Peace, Robin. You were a better friend to many of us than most realized, before today.