Observing a Life

genieWe’ve been hit with some pretty big celebrity deaths during the past five years, and they seem to hit closer and closer to home.

We still download Michael Jackson’s music while we watch Heath Ledger’s memorable portrayal of the Joker on our Macs and iPads that were of Steve Jobs’ genius design.

dead poetsBut most of us found ourselves rummaging through our old DVDs and VHS tapes yesterday, still trying to get over the shock of Robin Williams’ sudden passing.

No one would have guessed he’d be next.

I was at a restaurant when I saw the breaking news pop up on the TV monitor. There was no shortage of gasps. Throughout the rest of the evening I talked with friends and coworkers about his death, and what shocked me was the wide variety of responses I heard.

One guy said, “Just think of the movie marathons that’ll happen this week.”

When CNN erroneously reported that Mr. Williams had died of a heart attack, another guy said, “I’m more than half that age. That could be me soon.”

My best friend texted me an adage from one of our favorites, Hook: “To die will be an hook_robin-williams_spielbergawfully big adventure.”

Shockingly, someone said, “Good riddance.” When I asked for clarity, he said he never thought Robin Williams was funny. That was a first.

One girl started crying.

Another guy said, “I always thought he’d out himself; he just seemed too happy on the outside.”

And someone else, out of anger and hurt, said, “What did Robin Williams have to be upset about?”

jackNo matter what your thoughts are, there is likely not a person in America who hasn’t seen a movie with him in it, or voiced by him. I mean, who hasn’t already thought of Genie’s “Never Had a Friend Like Me” since the news hit?

But his death, in particular his suicide, kind of jolts me. The guy who said, “What did Robin Williams have to be upset about?” got me thinking, as each celebrity suicide does. You remember Tony Scott, the Top Gun director who jumped off a bridge a few years back? People asked the same thing of him.

I don’t know these people, but I know that they had a whole lot of the one thing we’re all Mrs-Doubtfire-robin-williams-33200263-1024-768after. We’re all after that one thing that we think will obliterate all of our problems. I find myself thinking, quite often, how I would love to be rich. Filthy, stinking, rich. Not to buy things, really, but to set it aside in savings.

Go out to eat wherever I want. Take my wife to Hawaii and Tahiti, just for the fun of it, as often as we’d like. Not have to work. Not sweat when I write the check for the mortgage. Get whatever we want at the grocery store each week. Open up an orphanage.

You know, little things like that.

We think money will afford us all these things (no pun intended). But clearly there was something else Robin Williams was after. And I’m not saying suicide is reserved for the rich and famous. Poor people are prone to it, good people, bad people, lonely people, popular people. But we have this idea that if we just have enough money, we’d be exempt from depression and sadness and bad hair days and week-long laundry piles.

patchadams-1024x576But depression can sneak in and grab anyone. Even Christians.

I am reminded today that we ought not to struggle and fight and work for the things of this world, for it is all temporary and fleeting. But to struggle for what comes after this world, the promise that there is a Kingdom for those who believe in Jesus Christ where all tears will be wiped away, and there will be no more dying or sadness or struggle ever again.

I am grateful for the life of Robin Williams, the inspiration behind so many iconic movie characters, the source of so many jokes, and the heart behind countless movie scenes that have touched us deeply. And though I’m deeply upset by his death, I’m glad that it causes us all to stop and think about what we’re clawing after, what we’re striving for, and remind us to do a maintenance check on our hearts and motives to see that we’re heading in a direction that is healthy and life-giving.

I’ll leave you with a statement from President Barack Obama that I found quite touching.

“Robin Williams was an airman, a doctor, a genie, a nanny, a president, a professor, a bangarang Peter Pan, and everything in between. But he was one of a kind. He arrived in our lives as an alien – but he ended up touching every element of the human spirit.”



Published by Andrew Toy

Writer when I'm not being a husband or dad. So mostly just a husband and dad.

42 thoughts on “Observing a Life

  1. Yes, I wonder if his searching for that one thing to the very depths of his soul came up empty. When there’s no one to fill that void that we all have it’s a pretty empty life. I guess a person who has ‘everything’ can find that out the easiest. I truly hope Robin found His Maker in his struggle with life on this earth. Thanks for writing about Robin:-)


  2. So very well said. I blogged about this news a few minutes ago with the same picture you used. Kuddos to you for immediately understanding why people would make those comments you heard at the restaurant. I know people who choose, not material things to fill that void, but emotional things instead. The human ego versus general self worth. It can make people do and say things….well that they shouldn’t. Thank you for sharing this.


  3. Beautiful, Beautiful, piece. Woke up to his death this morning, like I wake up to others too. Had no idea who he was until I saw him referenced to Aladdin and the Genie. Then the hurt came in. I loved that Genie Character, a lot. And my heart begs the same question that guy asked, “What does he have to worry about?”.


  4. When I learned that the cause of death is suicide, I had the same reaction of having a minute of thought and asked what did bothered him in his recent years? or did he have any family or close friend with him who reaches to him before this happened? I just can’t imagine what he went through and chose death over life. May his soul rest in peace with our Lord.


  5. My earliest memories of Robin are watching Mork & Mindy in my growing up years. I have loved his movies, enjoyed his brilliant sense of humour and often read with sadness as his life took multiple turns. I am going to miss this amazing man. Thank you for sharing this thoughtful piece on him. I am sure he will make people laugh wherever he goes.


  6. A very thought-provoking post. Such sad news about Robin Williams. Depression can be a devastating illness and even being wealthy and successful is no guarantee for happiness. Prayers for his family and for all those affected by depression and mental illness.


  7. Our achievements here are poor shields against the power of darkness. Often it is those very things that the enemy of our souls turns against us to tear us down. You are right our hope is in Christ alone.


  8. I guess you can never really know what goes on in other people’s lives. How sad and ironic that such an energetic and charismatic comedian gets depression. 😦

    RIP Robin Williams.


  9. Loosing someone (no matter who) is even harder when we find out that he was not who we thought he was. Nothing is in vain and every loss shows us something. One of the things the death of Robin Williams will show us once more that we should be careful with judging others – even in a positive way. It still is an interpretation of what we (want to) see in the other person. I am sorry that he might have felt lonely and misunderstood. But he left someghing great which will give him a certain place of memory in this world. He gave a gift to the world that is more valuable than anything else: He made us smile and forget our sorrows for a while!


    1. So true! There’s something warm and comforting about turning on almost any one of Robin Williams’s movies. The world disappears for a little bit and we’re back in a happy place.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. It seems like celebrity suicides are very often comedians :/ I remember when Owen Wilson attempted suicide when I was in high school. When I was a kid, my dad once pointed this trend out to me and said, “No one wants people expecting them to be funny all the time.”

    Whatever the reason, I’m just heartbroken that he can’t see how much the world misses him and how much we’re sorry that we took him for granted.


  11. I learned the other night that he was suffering from a period of very severe depression. I think this just shows how dangerous mental illness is and how difficult it is to treat. My heart breaks that he reached a point in which he felt there was no escape. It’s so important to remember that no amount of money or success means that all other problems go away. I’m praying for his family that they would find healing and comfort in this time.


  12. Great thoughts. It’s a truly sad to acknowledge that one more insanely talented actor left us. And it’s even sadder if he decided to leave by commiting a suicide. And now there are things, in particular, talking going on about Mr. William’s death, that I personally don’t like. I think it’s easy for healthy people to find some positivity in life. But when you’re suffering from depression… Depressed people have a completely different view of life. Maybe for him a suicide seemed to be the only solution. We don’t know. We don’t know what was going inside his heart, inside his mind. Clearly, people who commits suicides have reasons for it. Egoistic reasons. People shouldn’t judge him, because it could happen to anybody. I really hope, that wherever Robin is now, he feels better, and I hope, that everything that bothered him, doesn’t bother him now. Robin Williams left the world, but when you think about it’s not entirely true. He left a lot of his movies and other works. And he will live as long as there will be at least one person who will watch his films. So, we shoudl be thankful, that he did, what he did.


    1. You are absolutely right in that no one – absolutely no one – can judge him for taking his life, as sad and terrible a decision as it was. We all make bad decisions every day – his just happened to affect a lot more people and ended up being his last, as any one of us can very wall fall into.


  13. I will always remember him as funny and cool man that I saw in Dead Poets Society and Hook.

    This sad news is really touching and at the same time reminding us that depression is not a joke.


  14. Its’s weird. Many people who get where they always wanted to sit up there and wonder how and why it happened to them. There is guilt (almost a type of ‘survivor’s’ guilt), there is doubt (is my success TRULY due to ME, or could it have been anyone, given the opportunities I had the luck to come across and hungrily grab?), above all, for some reason, there is loneliness… I can’t imagine not knowing whom to trust, because they might go to the media, because they might steal from you, because they want to BE you, because they will betray you somehow… because that’s Life, and Life is often unbearably cruel. It is consistently forgotten that adults are only big children -that is why your childhood is so important and impactul. All the doubts, frights, betrayals, disappointments and moments of anger that marked you as a child will surface, especially when you are a successful adult, and aren’t so busy making money as you have time to think about your life. Alcohol calms the fear and anxiety, drugs convince you that you’re happy (and when they’re not, you’re asleep) but these are tiring, exhausting daily journeys… Suicide will kill the voices and the pain for Good. Life HURTS, and the pain of living must be managed in a healthy way -if you cannot find that way, it is almost certain that you will decide on the Final way out. And that is SUCH a shame. Such a SHAME -on the people who are left behind to nurse their guilt that they simply DIDN’T do enough -adding to their OWN Life Pain. Adults need as much love, reassurance and support as children do, no matter what they seem like on the outside -and they so often seem confident, proud, happy, knowledgeable, content, “bien dans leur peau”. They need these things verbally and physically expressed, as well as in loving gestures such as a note, a gift or a mention. One kind, loving act may make the difference between a good day and a bad one, the last straw and the one before the one before that, the imminent purchase of a gun, a bottle or pills.

    It’s crazy, but I understand. I LOVED Robin, and wish him Rest at Last. He has left many with a broken heart, and I wish them succour, though it won’t come soon. Let us all help each other push on, every day, no matter what. Life may be a difficult journey and a cruel one, but thank God there is always something worthwhile ahead.


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