I am absolutely positive that you don’t remember me, but I remember you. We “met” briefly when I was a sophomore in high school. My theater class was on a trip to New York. My mom was a chaperone and late one night towards the end of the trip, the two of us ducked into a Thai restaurant across the street from our hotel. We had just put our name down when my mom stiffened and said in a hushed, urgent voice, “That’s Robin Williams!”
Sure enough, there you were, seated at a table with two or three other people. You left before we were seated, walking right past us and giving a polite nod and a “hi” in our direction. Even though we were huge fans of yours, we were also huge fans of privacy and didn’t want to intrude so we just smiled shyly and said “hi” back. As a teacher and lover of children’s books and movies in general, my mom was over the moon. As a kid who had grown up on those movies, I was just as thrilled. You were already one of my all-time favorite actors. Really, if there was any celebrity we could have chosen to bump into in our trip to the Big Apple, it would have been you. It was all we could talk about for the next few weeks.
A month after this encounter, my mom, who had been in remission from breast cancer, became ill again. Ten months after that, she had died. We didn’t know it at the time, but that trip ended up being the last trip we took together and that moment was one of the last magical moments that we shared.
I’m not sure, to be honest, if I’m telling you this because I felt that I needed to say it or because I felt that you needed to hear it. Surely, with all the lives you’ve touched, you’ve heard many a story like this one before. Still, having worked in suicide prevention for the past six years and having struggled with depression and anxiety in the past myself, I know how illness can bring dark thoughts that play on the mind. So, if you had any doubts in your mind, I hope this one shining moment in one person’s life serves as a reminder of so many more.
I don’t want to assume at this point, but if you did take your life, I so deeply wish that you had been able to get help instead. I won’t pretend to know what your life was like. I have no idea. Still, I would have been willing- even very honored- to sit in that muck with you talking it over for as long as it took for you to start to see a silver lining. I have learned from my work that a crisis can only be sustained for so long, and that every crisis holds within it a potential for risk, but also an opportunity for growth. If anyone deserved to have that opportunity, it would have been you.
I cannot tell you how saddened I was to hear the news of your death. My gut impulse was to call my mom right away, crying, and tell her what happened. I knew she was the only other person I knew personally who would understand. Ten years out from her death, those impulses don’t come often any more.
I am so, so sorry that such a beautiful life that was so influential to others had to end in such sadness, and I know that if you made the decision to take your life, then your life must have had a terrible sadness in it. Still, a very wise person once reminded me that just because someone has gone through bad moments, even terrible ones, that doesn’t make the good moments they have had in life any less real. I hope from the bottom of my heart that you had as many good moments in your own life as you gave to other people, as many smiles of your own as you put on young children’s faces, and as many enchanting moments as each and every audience experienced from the opening credits to the final ones of each and every film.
The Kid in Me who Still Believes in Magic