“A whole human life is just a heartbeat here in Heaven. Then we’ll all be together forever.” – Robin Williams as Chris Nielsen, What Dreams May Come (1998).
There are those people – actors and actresses, sports heroes, musicians, and more – who define an entire generation. They’re rare, and special. The way they touch people’s lives – both people they have met and people who only know them through their work – is something that is beyond measure. Something that sets them apart and makes them feel like a part of your family. Last week, my generation lost one such family member. When I first heard about Robin Williams’ passing, I had just finished watering my grandparents-in-law’s flowers. I go over there twice a week to do that (they’re 89 and 91, respectively and still living on their own), on Mondays and Fridays. My best friend, Nyx, had come with me like she does most times, and we were sitting with our legs dangling into grandma’s pool. Nyx suddenly made an upset noise and said “oh no!” I asked what it was…and her answer rung in my head for hours. “Robin Williams died!” Over the last year, I’ve lost a few relatives – most who I’d either never met or hadn’t seen since I was very young. My dad is the youngest of a lot of siblings – six or seven…I don’t remember the original number now – and the number of uncles I have has been slowly dwindling recently. The one of those I really felt, personally, was my uncle Bob, who died last December. Less than a week later, though, I lost my cat who was like a son to me. The two instances were a one-two punch of grief that has taken months to fade to a manageable level. And yet, of all these losses, only the last two really sent me into a deep period of mourning. However, the day I heard of Robin Williams’ passing, I kind of…sank. We came home from grandma’s, I disappeared into the bedroom and told my wife what we found out…and then proceeded to sit in my favorite chair and spend the next three hours alternately almost crying and falling into a restless sleep. I never actually cried, though I teared up a bit. And I had the realization as I skimmed my social media feeds in the hours following the announcement. I was not alone in my mourning this time – this wasn’t just a member of my family who had passed away. This was an icon of a generation – that incredibly funny, awesome uncle that everyone loves and wants to hang out with whenever he’s around, even if you don’t know that much about his personal life. My generation lost their favorite uncle last week. And I will be – as I imagine quite a few people will – watching my favorites of his movies over the coming days and weeks in a private and yet worldwide memorial. Robin Williams – the man who shared a glimpse into what I still see when I think of Heaven, with What Dreams May Come, who gave a Genie his voice, heart, and soul in Disney’s Aladdin, who found himself within a magic boardgame and twenty-six years in the jungle in Jumanji, and who proved that he would go to any lengths to see his children in Mrs. Doubtfire, and brought joy to so many people in countless, countless movies and stand-up specials, has left us. Dante Basco, who played the erstwhile leader of the Lost Boys (Rufio) to Williams’ grown up Peter Pan in Hook, had his own word memorial to share on his site. Thousands of Twitter users raised their collective voices in mourning. Facebook exploded with memorials, memories, and condolences. I want to be one among the millions to express my condolences to Mr. Williams’ family in this incredibly trying time. My aunt passed away under similar circumstances at the age of 61 – I understand how upset, confused, even angry you all may feel. All I ever could think of to get through it was that whatever had hurt so much, had pushed my loved one so far, was over now. And though it hurts those who are left behind, the knowledge that our loved one is out of pain is the only real comfort we can take. Goodbye, Robin Williams. We’d never had a friend like you before, and likely never will again. May you rest in peace. Nanu nanu.