Divine Comedy

It is always a shock to hear of a suicide. The loss feels even greater when the person who took his own life was known for exceptional kindness, extraordinary generosity, and sensitivity to the needs of others. I was especially saddened by the death of Robin Williams because he had been open about his struggle with depression, not afraid to seek professional help, and, from news reports, it appeared he had taken a responsible approach to appropriate treatment.

Now, we ask questions. Did he leave a note? Did he give a reason? Did he describe the torment he chose to escape? Had he been thinking about suicide for a long time, or was this a sudden, impulsive need to end it all? Had his recent, heavy work schedule made it obvious that Parkinson’s had sapped his physical strength and stamina, and he believed he couldn’t continue to do what he loved to do? Was he too exhausted to think rationally? Did he share his desperation with therapists? Is suicide always an impulsive act in a weak, tortured, overwhelmed moment? Or, had he planned to cut out when he thought he could no longer perform at his best? We wonder. We make assumptions. But we don’t know.

We focus on our loss, but what about his pain, or torment, or whatever it was he couldn’t endure? Can we even begin to understand it, if we haven’t been in that dark place? Is it selfish to want him to be here still, when we have no idea what he was experiencing?

I keep hoping that Robin wrote a letter to his fans, something to comfort us, to explain why he needed to “exit stage left” before we thought the show was over. And I’m hopeful for Robin that he is in a place where he feels the joy of divine comedy.

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