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Wednesday, August 13, 2014

The Sad Clown

The news, official and social, is full of Robin Williams’s death. Consequently, I just don’t feel right posting the rather trivial blog post I had (almost) ready. I mean, I’m not personally touched by his death, nor do I know anyone who has been. Nevertheless, I do feel sad about it, and even a tiny bit shaken.

I’ve known my share of suicides. A childhood friend. The grown up sister of another childhood friend. My mother. Sometimes I have felt contaminated by these suicides, as if knowing them made me more likely to be one myself. I suppose it is true of my mother. I’ve read that suicide can run in families. After all, if someone you know has done it, it seems less impossible. My mother’s suicide I’ve always attributed to her terminal cancer. Even considered it a courageous choice, to end her life on her own time and terms, rather than let cancer do it. But there’s the other aspect of any suicide that can’t be rationalized away. To do it, to kill yourself, you have to be damn miserable. Because there’s nothing else afterwards. Most of us would rather live than not. It seems, thank goodness, inconceivable to prefer not. That’s what shakes me up about Robin Williams, I guess. His death reminds me of how different things can look from the inside, and how sometimes you just can’t escape yourself.

Of the many pieces I’ve read about Robin Williams, these two are my favorites:

This is a link to a very honest response to RW’s death, written by a local writer, Amy Biancolli, whose husband succumbed to suicide recently.

If you made it through that post, and came back, thank you. If you skipped that link, that’s just fine. Here’s a different bit about Robin Williams. Thank you, Karen, for letting me rip this off your Facebook page. Karen is a wonderful painter and friend I met when we lived in NYC. Her work ethic is astonishing. And her paintings are for sale. Her website is She shared this lovely memory:

You do have a lot of famous people sightings in NYC but very honestly the only one that ever fazed me was when, walking with my very young daughter who was in her stroller we walked through a movie set by our apartment building. We approached a group and suddenly someone said: hey, everyone - move aside, there's a baby coming through. The people peeled back and Robin Williams emerged, way shorter than I would've thought, and with that amazing smile came up to us, asked her name, and after asking: may I? leaned over to kiss her forehead, saying: what a beautiful child. She just started up at him and smiled back. As we left I told her that she was humanely blessed by a truly profound artist and sensitive soul, one of the best. We now lean over and kiss your forehead back Mr Williams. You are a beautiful child.

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