Thursday, August 14, 2014

Tears of a Clown

Robin Williams performing for the crew of USS Enterprise (CVN 65)December 19, 2003.  Photo credit to Photographer's Mate Airman Milosz Reterski, Public Domain, full link below

Greetings All:

Sad news befell us this week with the passing of the comic icon Robin Williams.  I will not focus this post in great detail on the circumstances of his passing or the various health challenges he had.  I do have a link the The New York Times below and you can read it if you like.  I will share this quote from his wife, Susan Schneider:

“This morning, I lost my husband and my best friend, while the world lost one of its most beloved artists and beautiful human beings.” She added: “As he is remembered, it is our hope the focus will not be on Robin’s death, but on the countless moments of joy and laughter he gave to millions.”

There have been numerous tributes to him and deservedly so.  I have no doubt he will be eulogized by a list of Hollywood's finest.  The President has already weighed in, offering his condolences and echoing Ms. Schneider's comments about how he entertained those who were so appreciative of his comic genius.

The best tribute I read was from a friend of mine who met him in Afghanistan and said how Mr. Williams spent the time to meet every Soldier, even the lawyers.  A selfless gesture by a man who by all accounts was genuinely connected to his fans.

I also placed a link to a story about how Mr. Williams flew (in secret) to meet with a dying girl as part of the "Make A Wish" Foundation.  It's a touching and not isolated story about what a caring, loving, decent human that was Robin Williams.

As I have been thinking about this so sad news, the song, "Tears of a Clown," has been running through my head.  Here are the lyrics in their entirety:

"Now if there's a smile on my face
It's only there trying to fool the public
But when it comes down to fooling you
Now honey that's quite a different subject
But don't let my glad expression
Give you the wrong impression
Really I'm sad, oh sadder than sad
You're gone and I'm hurting so bad
Like a clown I pretend to be glad
Now there's some sad things known to man
But ain't too much sadder than
the tears of a clown
When there's no one around
Oh yeah baby, now if I appear to be carefree
It's only to camouflage my sadness
In order to shield my pride I try
To cover this hurt with a show of gladness
But don't let my show convince you
That I've been happy since you decided to go
Oh, I need you so, I'm hurt and I want you to know
But for others I put on a show
Now there's some sad things known to man
But ain't too much sadder than
the tears of a clown
When there's no one around, oh yeah
Just like Pagliacci did
I try to keep my sadness hid
Smiling in the public eye
But in my lonely room cry
the tears of a clown
When there's no one around
Oh, yeah baby
Now if there's a smile upon my face
Don't let my glad expression
Give you the wrong impression
Don't let the smile I wear
Make you think that I don't care
Really I'm sad I'm hurting so bad"

The last three lines are so damn haunting, about a smile masking pain.  As I write this I think of watching this man perform, of laughing so hard that it hurt to breathe!  How could possibly someone so giving of his talent, so easily sharing of laughter and joy have such emptiness inside?  

The ugly truth is we will never know.

I do not know what issues Mr. Williams faced and I feel terrible for his family.  I wrote above that I did not want to focus a great deal on the circumstances of his death but as I thought about this post, I found that it was not possible to write this without at least acknowledging that he had something driving him to take this most drastic and tragic action.

Depression is something that is wickedly hard to understand.  We can understand how a heart attack or cancer can kill, but depression?  It causes us to shake our heads, to seek sense from the incomprehensible.  I think Scientific American provides some insights with this statement (link to story below):

"But the tragedy of Williams’s death should remind us that the most debilitating and life-threatening mood disorders can strike anyone, and once they do, it can be awfully hard to find release." 

Robin Williams was the crown prince of comedy for a generation.  And yet, there were the tears.  Tears camouflaged by the bright light of fame and the make-up of adoration.  Yet, there they were.

Many of us feel terrible about his passing yet it is a stretch to call it grief.  After all, grief is ultimately reserved for family and close friends.  So perhaps the most sincere tribute we can leave for Robin Williams is to reach out to those who are our family and friends.  To simply say, "I love you" or "I'm glad you're in my life."  If we think something is not quite right, then take the time to visit and truly listen.  By doing so we can honor the memory of someone we all enjoyed listening to, even if we could not see the tears in his eyes.

RIP Robin.   

Be well my friends,


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