I’ve been hit by death in my life. My father died at 52, my brother at 36. The pain was surreal…and then leveling. I know heart hurt. Last week, though not as heavy and I’m guessing not as lingering, the death of Robin Williams hit me harder than maybe it should. I mean, I didn’t know the guy. I’m not family or friend, but there’s something about watching something so beautiful and bright go dark.
I remember watching Popeye and Mork and Mindy when I was a little brat in the trailer park, and years later, Mrs. Doubtfire, Good Morning Vietnam, and my personal favorite, Good Will Hunting.
For me, Robin’s true magic poured out when he was on talk shows. Especially Letterman. If Robin was the guest, I had to watch. Watching him explode from one hilarious bit to another, and then improvising at breakneck speeds was brilliant. Beyond that, it was special. He was the sun.
When I heard he had died, I was sad. When I heard how he died, I was hurt. If I’d not thought it was a stupid Facebook hoax (and then prayed it was a stupid Facebook host), I may have shed tears right there at work. It had that horrible “can’t be real” feel to it. The same surreal truth that I felt when I heard my dad, and then my brother had passed. It took it’s time setting in.
It really struck me in two mean shots.
The first hard strike came when I sat down with my wife and kids and watched Mrs. Doubtfire the other night. Near the end of the movie, when Sally Fields announces to the kids that they have a new nanny and she opens the door and he’s there smiling…that smile. That face. As much as anything he said with his words or his movements, it was all there on that face, in that incredible smile. Look at him again. The twinkle in his eyes. His face was built to smile. It was full of humor, heart, joy, care, happiness.
The second shot to my heart came with the knowledge that I–we–no longer get to see that smile anymore. He’s not going to sit down and then hop right back up from that chair across from Dave or Conan or Jimmy…that smile is no longer going to burn for us all to see. To keep us warm, to melt our hardened hearts, to give us that lift we might not have even know we needed.
Tonight I shed my tears. I miss you Robin. May your smile light the other side of Heaven. Nanu, Nanu.