Sept. 10 was World Suicide Prevention Day and I have never been one to ignore the giant elephant in a room. The giant elephant that day was Robin Williams. By no means do I feel the death of one man should overshadow this entire issue. However, when the death of Williams brought so much focus to that issue just a month ago, I feel it cannot be ignored. He meant too much to too many people. He meant too much to me.
I have always wanted to be like Williams’ characters I grew up watching. I always wanted to be like the person he seemed to be in real life. I want to be that friend who tries to make you smile, even at my own expense, to be the spouse and parent who would go through anything imaginable for their family, and to even one day be a professor who could inspire his students to do things they never thought they were capable of. I have always wanted to be someone who, like Williams, made people happy.
But how could I become that person when Williams, a role model of mine, took his life? When someone who brought so much happiness to the world was never able to find enough of his own? I thought about that for a long time after his death. I thought about the pain he must have felt in his final hours and the depression and addiction he battled for years.
I got around to watching some of Williams’ movies again, and about halfway through “Hook,” I finally realized that by dwelling on his painful end, I was taking something from his life, something that was his own burden to carry. His pain had nothing to do with me or with anyone else. I do not think he would want his suffering to be shared.
Williams chose to share laughter, love and inspiration. Those are the things that should define him. In “Hook” he needed a happy thought in order to fly. A happy thought is what he is to me, to a whole generation of “90’s kids,” and hopefully what he will be for future generations.
Williams and any other beloved person who has committed suicide should not be summed up by the pain they felt before their death, but by great things they chose to share during their life. Let them be what they so often struggled to have and give those who are still with us, what they so rightly deserve. Happy thoughts.