Leaving Yourself Hanging

Like many people my age, I first encountered Robin Williams on Mork and Mindy.  For a boy  classified as hyperactive (before the advent of ADHD, ADD, and a plethora of other acronyms), Williams was evidence that you could be off-the-charts, hyperactively speaking, and be successful.  He was everywhere.  I owned a pair of his suspenders.  He was an idol that matched my frenetic internal energy levels, even as I was grew discerning enough to realize that the show wasn’t all that great.  

I don’t remember when I first saw it.  The look in his eyes when he wasn’t laughing or bouncing (literally) off the ceiling in one form or another.  I eventually outgrew what made him famous, his manic energy and unpredictable, free-form comedic genius.  It was too much.  Perhaps as I grew better able to harness the craziness of my energy and mind and emotions, I recognized that his manic-ness was dangerous.  Either a wildly uncontrollable rush that was doomed to destroy him, or a carefully crafted veneer over some enormous cavernous pain poised to swallow him whole.  

I’ve known for years that he would kill himself.  It seemed like the only possible way out for someone either unable or unwilling to extinguish one of the six ends of the candle he was burning.  

Over the years the Williams moments that have been most powerful for me were those without a laugh track – whether his or the people around him.  The depths of a close-up shot of his eyes that said so much, and seemed to want to be able to say so much more.  His roles in The Fisher King and Dead Poets Society were far more compelling than Good Morning Vietnam or Mrs. Doubtfire.  

What I find most disturbing though is the lack of the press’ willingness to say it.  To say that he killed himself.  This man who made so many people laugh and evinced such talent and enjoyed such success on the world’s terms, this man killed himself.  Most news reports smudge this.  He was “found dead” or “found unresponsive” is what most of them say.  A few say that he apparently killed himself.  Only Wikipedia stated the alleged cause of death – asphyxiation from hanging.  Money and success and fame weren’t enough to drown out the other voices, the other whispers.

I pray that in the midst of this tragedy there is the grace of God (Wikipedia claims that Williams’ was an Episcopalian) at work in the life of this particular Christian.   I pray that he’s discovering the presence of God far better than it was imagined in that awful movie (theologically) What Dreams May Come.  And I pray I’ll have the chance to laugh with him – really laugh with him – someday, when the demons are gone and there’s no more need to hide behind smiles.



4 Responses to “Leaving Yourself Hanging”

  1. Dianne Says:

    A friend of mine was ready to end her life but she thought how that act would affect her family. She is loving a wonderful life today.

    • mrpaulnelson Says:

      Sometimes it’s only the thought of the impact on those we love that stays the impulse to suicide. I’m thankful that this is enough sometimes, to give people room to breathe and come out of the shadows into a better place!

  2. Lois Says:

    The most hopeful thing I’ve read so far is that his favorite book was The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. He read that series to his kids.

    Yes, his eyes were very sad; it shows in nearly all the photos they are publishing of him now. I wish he had been able to find the strength to go on, I pray that he is now in God’s hands.

    • mrpaulnelson Says:

      I’ve seen several articles that highlight his openness about God and faith, particularly in relation to his recovery. It is moments like these that I think illuminate our conceptions of God’s grace and mercy. It is indeed comforting to hear that Williams’ was aware of and accepting of those gifts!

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