I've been surprisingly grieved by Robin Williams' death.
My first memory of him was when I was about 10 years old and my family was visiting my parents' best friends. At some point in the dinner party, my parents' friends wondered where their normally rambunctious son was. They soon realized the reason the house was so quiet was that their 4 year-old had been downstairs watching Robin Williams on HBO for the last hour.
I loved about 2/3rds of Robin Williams movies, especially the serious ones. But, the 2/3rds I loved roughly coincided with the first 2/3rds of his movie career. I lost interest after Good Will Hunting, after which, aside from Insomnia and One Hour Photo, his singular talent seemed to be predicting the worst films of the year and then asking for a starring-role. (I hear that World's Greatest Dad is great but I haven't seen it.)
But, in the mid 2000's, a friend of mine who's a pastor in San Francisco had the privilege of having Mr. Williams attend his church for a time. Though Robin was raised Episcopalian he found himself in a few Presbyterian churches in California and Oregon during this time and according to my friend, "ambled up to communion just like all the other souls in need of grace." How beautiful!
It was partially this image that stuck with me when I heard of his death. But, it was also the image of him sitting on a bench with Matt Damon and somehow managing to simultaneously convey confrontation and empathy, as only the greatest actors, or therapists are able to do.
I've found myself on youtube far too much these last two days watching old clips with misty eyes and a compulsion to share everything I find with friends - you're not going to believe this! He played an alien on TV, but sometimes his ability to make up completely original comedy on the fly, in front of the likes of Carson and Letterman, seem to be other-worldly, once-in-a-universe gifts.
I have listened to interviews with him from Terry Gross (who I normally can't stand) and Mark Maron. Both are gold mines of humor, self-awareness, and insight into the human condition.
He was such a tender, wounded, and lovely soul.
With Mark Maron, he talks about his search for happiness, for approval, and for meaning and when Maron mentions his "superstar status", Williams said, "The Academy Award lasted about a week and then one week later people are saying “Hey Mork!”
There's so much pain, comedy, and honesty in this line.
I wish I could be that real.
Thanks Robin Williams for not only beautifying our world with your unique humor but also for your authenticity. You are a national treasure and you will be missed. May you rest in Jesus' welcome!