Oh Captain! my Captain: Fairwell to Robin Williams

Posted by on Aug 20, 2014 in ComLead

images_Oh captainIt was stunning news. We were waiting for the Jackson Browne concert to begin. The news about the death of Robin Williams came from my niece in a text.  News is instantaneous, with no privacy for families to grieve. We immediately went online because we wanted more information. We did not want it to be true. Like millions of others, we were stunned, we felt loss and we wondered how this could happen.

We felt the sudden impact of loss and sadness. We did not know him personally but Robin Williams was our part of our personal history. We watched him on Mork and Mindy, saw his movies and laughed at his comedic ingenuity.  Robin Williams was creative. He was an innovator as a comedian and as an actor. Most important, he was a giving person.

Meryl Streep stated, “It is hard to imagine unstoppable energy stopped.” Jimmy Fallon gave an emotional tribute to Robin Williams, “He was a comic genius… he was funny, he was fast, and he would weave in and out of characters…and you would watch him and think , I will never see someone like this human ever…”  

His family wants us to remember him and how he made us laugh-to celebrate his life and not dwell on the manner of his death. And so I will try.

Robin Williams gave us more than laughter and strong performances as an actor: he was a humanitarian. He went on six USO tours in Afghanistan and Iraq, worked with Comic Relief, made a PSA last summer for St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital, he created the Robin Williams scholarship at Julliard School and did so much more. He gave to others what his depression did not allow for himself: laughter, comfort and a sense of peace. 

Since his death ,we have learned that Robin Williams was in the first stages of Parkinson’s Disease.  For those of us familiar with Parkinson’s disease, we understand the impact it has on the person afflicted by it and their family members. We understand how one’s quality of life changes. We grieve with the person’s suffering.  For my father-in-law, we watched as he struggled to write, walk, speak and his constant struggle to be understood. For a comedian who relied on body movement, facial expressions and voice intonation as tools of his trade, the diagnosis of Parkinson’s must have been overwhelming even on the best days of his life. 

We can honor his life by learning and understanding those who suffer from depression and from Parkinson’s disease. We can learn and support these individuals in our own way.

Robin Williams was a humble leader in life. Through his array of work and with his creative genius, others were able to blossom, smile, laugh and connect.  His death is a reminder to embrace life and give of ourselves using the talents we have. He lived his life in this way.

We hope he is at peace and hold on to his memory through his work. “Oh captain! my captain! Your fearful trip is done…”

Dr. R. Hartman


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