I wasn’t going to write about Robin Williams’s death for a number of reasons. First of all, I didn’t live in his head, so I have no right to conjecture about what went on in there. I only know what he shared with the world about his struggle. Second of all, like most of us, my opinions are clouded by the loss and sadness that’s largely selfish – that is, it’s about the void he’s left in our lives, about all the laughter he gave us, and could have given us, had he lived.
But hearing a lot of ill-informed chatter today really gave me no choice but to put voice to my thoughts. Bear with me.
I used to think suicide was the worst thing a person could do. I used to think suicide was quitting before the miracle.
Not to say I judged those who did it. I could also understand something of why they did it, both from a psychological perspective (as that is my education) and a personal perspective, having lost loved ones to suicide. But I have always been a firm believer that a miracle may be lurking just around the corner, and if you can hold on just one more minute, one more second, one more blink of an eye, the solution to all your problems could be there, waiting for you too.
- So I hoped everyone suicidal could just hang on for the miracle.
- I hoped that everyone fighting for their lives, hooked up to ventilators and all manner of machinery, could hang on for the miracle.
- I hoped that every desperate soul who ever thought about shooting up a school because they feel lousy inside could hang on for the miracle.
- And some days, when I felt like life was overwhelming me and I’d be swept up in the tide, I wanted to hang on for the miracle, too.
That was how I used to think. But now I’ve had time to think some more. And I realize the miracle is already here.
The day we burst forth into this world screaming and wet and naked, the miracle has begun. The fact that we put our feet on this earth is the miracle. The fact that we breathe is the miracle. The fact that we have a life given to us to do something spectacular, or something humble, as long as we’re doing something at all, is the miracle.
And whether you believe in God, like me, or believe we came from nothingness and to nothingness we’ll return, the miracle is here and now. There is no waiting.
- And so when I lost cousin to suicide, I chose to remember the way he smiled and the sound of his laughter, rather than focusing on the manner of his death and the mental anguish he must have felt leading up to it.
- When we had to make the decision to take my grandfather off life support, I agreed with the majority, because the doctors (who have infinitely more experience in life or death matters than me) told us there was no hope of recovery. And I choose to remember my grandfather for the love he shared, rather than the last days of his life.
- Now that we’ve lost Robin Williams, I choose to think of the miracle of every laugh and smile he gave me, and not to dwell on his choice to end his own life and ask unanswerable questions about his motivation.
We’re all living the miracle day in and day out. There is no need to wait and see if Providence will grant us more time, or serenity, or better health, or hope. He will or will not – it’s out of our hands. We can pray, and sometimes prayers are answered. Or if you don’t believe in prayer, then say good luck comes our way. Whatever you call it, it simply adds to the miracle.
For those suffering from clinical depression, the miracle feels like it’s a million miles away. And that’s terribly sad. We should advocate for more and better help, rather than judge those who commit suicide, or try to brush off depression (or any other mental health problem) as anything other than the illness it is. And we need to be there for the people who reach out to us as a lifeline. We need to remind them there are miracles yet to experience in this roller coaster called life.
Robin Williams is gone, my grandfather is gone, my cousin is gone, and someday all of us will be gone too, one way or another. We can at least celebrate the miracles we get the chance to experience. And for us, with Robin Williams, it was the legacy of joy he spread around this tiny round world.
So I don’t think he quit before the miracle. I just think he couldn’t see the miracle was already here. And my heart breaks for him and everyone who’s lost sight of it. I pray that all with the urge to commit suicide are able to find the help they need and can remember the miraculous that has happened, is happening, and is yet to happen.
And that’s, as Forrest Gump would say, all I have to say about that.