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Pausing to remember Robin Williams

Comedy Club Tribute Sign
Comedy Club Tribute Sign
Photo by Valerie Macon/Getty Images

Most of us have some kind of routine or regular pattern for getting the day started. Morning routines, seasonal routines, phases of the Moon, Sun, and Stars routines. My morning routine this morning included reading some inspiring thoughts of other writers and of checking my email messages. After being jolted by the news yesterday that Robin Williams, the beloved and talented actor and humanitarian had most likely died of a suicide, there has been a steady stream of outpouring from those who knew him, from those who knew him through his work, and from those who were shocked and sad that this man of light was now gone.

In the back of my mind, thoughts of Robin Williams' films, and of interviews I had watched over the years came back. I thought of all the places where we had walked the same streets though our lives and paths never crossed. When I sit in our home in San Francisco hearing the fireworks from the Giants' stadium, or when I hear the roaring of the crowd at the ball game as I walk by the stadium on our way to the baby park, I imagine Robin Williams sitting with his friends, cheering his favorite home team on. Walking around Sausalito, or the streets of San Francisco, or wandering around Marin County, past Tiburon, San Rafael, and San Anselmo, we never met. I never missed his movies, and often saw them each more than once. His wit never failed to entertain me, as it did so many others. There was always something so sad in nearly every role he played. There was a deep pathos that showed through as one who feels life so deeply and seeks to affect it so profoundly, often expresses.

Though I did not know this wonderful man, actor, and humanitarian, I feel the loss of him. He gave more than he could ever know, hitting us where we feel the rawness and tragic humor of life. He touched us because we could feel that he saw something of great beauty and sadness in being human, fallible, and vulnerable. As I walked into my bedroom this morning, I leant over to spread my coverlet across the pillows, as I made my bed. And at that moment it struck me that Robin Williams would not be making his bed today, or any other day. He would not be doing the same things he usually did each morning, afternoon, or evening. He would no longer greet his wife and settle into their comfortable routine, nor would he hold his children again, or make us laugh in new and ever-surprising ways. He is no longer living in his human form, and has made his way into another level of being. He carried great sadness with him, and we can only hope he feels some release and relief from whatever drove him to seek a way out.

My thoughts this morning are with those whom he left behind, who now have to carry on with their lives in ways they probably never imagined. My prayers are for his family and his good friends who now have to make sense of last words, or last encounters. Who have to wonder if there weren't something they could have or should have said or done. For those who suffer such great anguish, loss, and grief, no words can comfort, and time is but a slow balm that never promises healing. Instead we fumble with the sheets, and tuck in the blankets. We wash up the last cup left on the counter, or put the shoes and toothbrush somewhere--anywhere but out to be a reminder of loss. Or perhaps, we leave everthing in place, just as it was, hoping somehow that will help us retain the scent or feel of that person's presence in our lives. For those of us who have lost someone to death--something that will happen to all of us--we know how we settle into routines of grieving to help us bear the weight of loss, to keep us numb from the shock of knowing, that we have to go on without someone who filled up a part of our lives. For family and friends, that is a huge part of life. For the rest of us, it is whatever he meant to us, whatever his films touched in us, or whatever our experience of this iconic figure in our lives was.

Anyone who has lived through the past 40 years or more has known Robin Williams as a voice of a generation that has spoken out, acted out, and made attempts to live life with heart and soul. Robin Williams became the one among us who wasn't afraid to make us laugh at our feeble attempts to live right, or to make us see what lay under the coat of pretense, political double speak, or help us face our inhumanity to one another. He was not afraid of pointing out our foibles, tragedies, and failures, and he was not afraid to be human and share in that humanity in so many ways. We lose a voice who spoke to us, for us, and over us to give us a reason to go on. We are sad that you have gone on and left us a little bit lost without you, a little bit richer because of you, and a great deal sadder and confused about how to make sense of such a great loss. We didn't want you to give up hope, and wish we could have made it better for you. Rest in Peace, the Peace of a Compassionate and Loving God, dear Robin Williams.