Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Saying Goodbye to the Guy Next Door - Robin Williams

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About three weeks ago, the world was shocked by the news that Robin Williams had chosen to end his life. Countless messages of sorrow and disbelief flooded the airwaves and cyber space. The sudden and unexpected loss of this man rocked the entertainment industry and the world as a whole.

Several big names passed away this year. Bob Hoskins, Ralph Waite, Lauren Bacall, James Garner, Mickey Rooney, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Maya Angelou, and Casey Kasem, just to name a few in no particular order. For some reason, the passing of Robin Williams eclipsed the loss of every one of them. Why is one human and his death so much more mesmerizing than the loss of these other big names?

Of course, there is the loss of his monumental talent, his wit, and his well-earned celebrity. He was a comic genius, but his intelligence spanned far beyond making people laugh. It’s simply not logical to think an individual with average intelligence could be so quick and on target with his improvisations and so poignant in both humor and drama at the same time. He was obviously an amazing intellect that was equally in tune with the human condition.

That brings into focus the other side of Robin Williams. His compassion for his fellow human beings was broad. Brian Lord posted a blog soon after the news was announced detailing Robin Williams’ contract requirements. One of those requirements was that a certain number of homeless people were put to work for his show. After speaking before Congress in 1990 about homelessness and being instrumental in Comic Relief to help the homeless, it isn’t a surprise that he would require this kind of action. His dedication to our troops was also impressive. The stories of his trips overseas and the time he would spend with the soldiers before and after his time on stage were reminiscent of Bob Hope. It takes a special performer to be so inclusive of all the troops, especially the ones unable to attend the stage performance because of duty assignments. Finally, his drive to help those that are ill and unable to help themselves was remarkable. Whether it was the humility of absorbing medical bills for fellow celebrity and friend, Christopher Reeve, or to help raise money for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and the children suffering from cancer, Robin Williams was there.
He was honest and genuine about his conditions, his thoughts, and his own personal reality. He struggled with many things, including addiction, depression, and health issues, but he was never afraid to share that part of his life with the world. He wasn’t ashamed of being human and many were awestruck by this honesty. They connected with him through his battle with depression and his addictions. 

Those attributes just touch the surface of all the things that made Robin Williams seem like a "normal" person. He was the guy next door, not necessarily a celebrity. He wasn't an eclectic mix of eccentricities as many iconic celebrities are or were. He didn't seem to flaunt his status or wealth or celebrity. He was exceedingly humble about all of it and used it for the betterment of everyone, especially those most in need.

Robin Williams is dearly missed. He is missed by volumes of people for equally as many reasons, but the loss of his humanity is the cornerstone of the world’s sense of loss. Bidding a final farewell to Robin Williams is like saying goodbye at the passing of a dear neighbor and close friend. He touched so many lives in so many ways, many without even knowing it. Of all the sentiments and statements regarding Robin Williams’ passing, probably the most poignant and honest was that presented at the 2014 PrimetimeEmmy Awards by Billy Crystal, so as a final thought here it is. Goodbye, Robin, you will always be loved. 

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