Whenever somebody we don’t know dies I instantly feel like a fool if I am touched and saddened by the news. I tell myself: his wife and his children and his friends are mourning him… you didn’t even know him.
When I see that isn’t enough to stop me and I start reflecting on their death, I tell myself: whatever you think you know about him will most likely be wrong: you know nothing of this person.
But there are cases where unknown famous people die and they strike so close to home that we are mourning a big chunk of ourselves, too. It happened to me when Falcone died.
With him, my ferocious sense of justice suffered an immense blow. I was 21 and I felt that there was no hope left in Italy, because he had been murdered.
But Williams has always been very close to me: I grew up on massive doses of Mork and Mindy, went through The World according to Garp, and then Goodmorning Vietnam! and Aladdin and yes all the others everyone knows. But I learnt fairly soon that, like others, he had serious issues with drugs (of which he was “cured” after his good friend Belushi died), Alcohol and Depression. I thought now older he might be having an easier time. But his death reminds us that no matter how much you may be loved, how much you love, depression can get to you always, take you by surprise and make you do absurd, even heartless (because how cruel is it to do it in your own home, with people walking about?) things.
His giving up is a sharp reminder of the failure that potentially awaits everyone who fights depression on a daily basis. It’s a reminder that he might have failed for just five minutes, and yet those five minutes were plenty to create a disaster.
In another book by the same author of The World According to Garp, John Irving, characters keep telling each other to “keep passing the Open Windows”: make it through another day, or, don’t stop or it may catch up with you.
Evidently, Robin Williams stopped, maybe even just for a few minutes, and failed to pass one of these windows. I am so sad that he went like this. For anybody who reads this, keep passing the open windows, and be grateful to all those who remind you to keep doing so.