Farewell to Robin Williams: a thank you note

 

robin
me and him

 

Robin Williams died today.

It seems surreal to write that.

But since writing is the way I process the incomprehensible — I find myself writing.

Everyone is tweeting and facebooking and calling into radio shows about what a great talent Robin was.

Yeah. He was. But that wasn’t what I adored about him. It was the fact that he was an incredibly kind human being.

When I was 14 years old, I went on location to film Mrs. Doubtfire for five months, and my high school was not happy. My job meant an increased workload for teachers, and they were not equipped to handle a “non-traditional” student. So, during filming, they kicked me out.

It’s devastating, at 14, to have your formal education terminated. I felt like a freak and a reject. When I arrived at work the next day, Robin noticed that I was upset and asked me what was wrong. I explained what had happened, and shortly after that, he handed me a letter that he had written to my school. He explained that I was just trying to continue my education while pursuing my career. He wrote embarrassingly kind things about my character and my work, and requested that they reconsider and allow me to return to my classes.

When I told him I still didn’t think they would take me back, he said, “It’s kinda like Amnesty International. That school just needs to know that people know the truth.”

The school framed the letter. They hung it in the principal’s office. But they didn’t invite me to return to school.

But here’s what matters from that story. Robin stood up for me. He was in my corner. I was only 14, but I had already seen that I was in an industry that was full of back-stabbing. And it was entirely clear that Robin had my back.

I know I said thank you at the time and I’m sure I wrote one of those stiff thank you notes that 14-year-olds write with slanting lines and spelling mistakes. But that all seems so insufficient now.

Even though I had not spoken with Robin in a very long time, I always assumed there would be some future opportunity to tell him that his letter changed my life. It taught me that you stand up for the things that matter. And even if your attempts fail, you tried. You told the truth. You took care of your friends. You fought back.

None of us really know what fights Robin was battling* but I know his struggles were not uncommon. It’s estimated that 16 million people in the US have struggled with depression – and I include myself in that statistic. It’s real and it’s not shameful and there is help available.

You can bring it to the light, you can tell the truth, you can go to a meeting, you can reach out to a friend.

None of us are alone.

And if you have someone in your life who you are grateful for — someone to whom you want to write another heartfelt, slanted, misspelled thank you note – do it. Tell them they made you feel loved and supported. That they made you feel like you belonged somewhere and that you were not a freak.

Tell them all of that.

Tell them today.

—————–

The number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-TALK (8255)

*ETA – Since I wrote this article, Robin’s wife publicly discussed his other health issues. Obviously, I don’t know the reasons for his decision but I do know that he had struggled with depression, regardless of whether it was a factor here. Depression was something that he and I talked about. I’m not intending to diagnose anyone – just sharing a story about someone I loved.


Here is the letter:

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291 Replies to “Farewell to Robin Williams: a thank you note”

  1. This made me tear up. The little acts of kindness mean so much.

    My wife wrote on Twitter, “It’s really hard when you suffer from depression and someone else who you respect can’t deal with it anymore.” It’s true; but I can remind myself, her, and everyone I love struggling with depression that they are important by means of beautiful little things like that.

    1. Yes to all of the above. Furthermore, our heroes and the people who inspire us are not perfect. Sometimes they fall. Sometimes they fail. But that doesnt mean you stop trying. Remember you are probably someone elses inspiration and hero and even though you may fail, you may also win. RIP Robin. Williams. May God bless everyone who is struggling with depression.

  2. Hi Lisa, that was honestly really inspiring! I know Robin sure meant a lot to you, I can tell by the words in this letter. My condolences to you:) xoxo

  3. It truly is sad, but now is the time to remember the joy and positivity he brought into our lives. He was an incredible talent with an even larger heart. Thank your for sharing Lisa

  4. I sent a message on facebook that probably got buried. Mrs. Doubtfire was one of the earliest films in my life, and it gave me a lifelong love for his work.

    Plus, his comedy helped me when feeling down. Those moments of laughter are worth everything.

  5. Beautifully written. And despite his inner turmoil, at least his legacy is that of love and laughter that he brought to millions of people.
    My dad and I watched “Aladdin” tonight, as Robin Williams played the Genie, and his last words were, “I’m history! No, I’m mythology! No, I don’t care what I am! I’m free!” I only hope that he truly is.

    1. I feel deeply sad. But I feel he is free of his demons. God bless Robin Williams, an amazing person & actor. May God give his loved ones peace. I imagine him looking down from heaven. He is with us, comforting those who are hurting. He is an angel up there…rip. miss you

  6. Amazing moving words, what a sad day today is, to have lost such a gentle soul. Thank you for sharing your beautiful story xx

  7. You’re words are beautiful. It lets us all in on how Mr. Williams touched your heart and forever will be in it. Thank you for sharing this with us. He will forever be remembered for the kindness he had shown others.

  8. What a beautiful memory that you’ve shared with us, of such a beautiful man. Thank-you for sharing who Robin really was outside of his many talents, he was just genuinely a beautiful soul, a light that shone bright in world that is indeed so dark. Thank-you for being forthcoming also about how depression has affected you. It can happen to us all, and I applaud you for being open about it. I pray that you are in better spirits (although I know the current situation is not one that will allow that at the moment).

    God Bless, Lisa! Thank-you to you also for the wonderful memories you created that we the viewers get to watch through a most beloved classic.

  9. Thank you for that beautiful tribute to him. I remember him as a part of my growing up years and for some reason,, reading that he died today, it felt like a part of my childhood also died. I don’t think he ever knew what an impact he had on this world. I hope he realizes it now.

  10. Robin was a wonderful human, but it will be from those like yourself that his true spirit will be revealed. Stories about his kindness like yours will let everyone see the light in him that continues to shine so bright. These stories will bring hapiness and hope to many and I hope that his works will continue to bring joy to so many for years to come. I do wonder what christmas TV will be like this year, My family, as many others all other the world, have welcomed robin into our homes every year through his work and it never failed to enhance that christmas cheer.

  11. Reblogged this on melancholianation and commented:
    I don’t remember a “celebrity”, i.e., someone I knew of but didn’t actually know, who’s death has hit me as hard as this. I’ve been crying for hours. Paradise will be funnier, that’s for sure.

    1. I agree . Tears won’t stop. This brilliant actor touched lives in a wonderful way. I feel deeply sad for his pain. I pray his family will find joy in the beautiful person he was. He helped many (myself included) to laugh and smile & sometimes it was a saving grace….His warm heart touched us..He made us laugh, when we really felt like crying. . I pray he knows the joy he brought to many hurting soul’s. He is angelic. God bless him.

  12. Lisa, you warmed my heart with your thank you. I worked on Doubtfire with you as the AD who handled first team. We were lucky to have known the real man behind the genius. Sadly, none of us could save him from his mind. You may be able to relate to what I posted about Robin on my Facebook page. Glad to read what you have to say, and happy that you are well! https://www.facebook.com/carol.bawer/posts/10203908031197268?comment_id=10203908576970912&offset=0&total_comments=6&notif_t=feed_comment

  13. So very, very sorry for your loss. Thank you for this reminder that the little gestures, even the ones that don’t get the results we want, still mean so much. I hope Robin Williams is in a place full of love right now.

  14. This made me cry…I’m glad you have such a warm memory of himand that he had your back. What a priceless gift he gave you! Thanks for sharing.

  15. As someone who has crippling anxiety to the point where I almost never open up and express these feelings to the people closest to me, I want to thank you for this post because, in all honesty, this along with your depression/anxiety post you linked to struck more of a chord than anything I can think of.

    I randomly came across this after I saw someone on reddit link to your tweet regarding the horrible news we received about Robin, as you had a big role as his character’s daughter in Mrs. Doubtfire. I just wanted to state how much I appreciate the words and feelings you expressed that I have difficulty articulating. It helps immensely.

  16. Thank You Lisa for these warm words. You statement moved me so much that I had to cry … and I could not cry for years.

  17. Well said. Great that you met him too. You were truly blessed.
    It seems people that have suffered depression have a natural empathy for others that are struggling. Robin noticed your sadness and helped you. I suffered for years with depression and realised why and how to control it.
    Such a shame that Robin didn’t find help to keep him balanced.
    Thank you for writing your blog.
    Cheryl X

  18. Thank you for sharing this. It’s just a glimpse into someone’s personality that I would never have had a chance to see, but I always thought Robin Williams was a kind person. I am sorry for your loss, it’s hard to comprehend. Blessings. Jack Servello.

  19. Very well said lisa to hear storys like this just leaves me thinking wat I saw in the movies was the true robin funny and and amazing talent he was a huge part of my child hood Rip robin

  20. Posted my own little Tribute on Facebook, as have many millions of others….I was hoping he would do another Comedy Tour, bring it back to Europe and hopefully do some Shows in My Country!… alas it was not to be. I also know (and am related to) People who have suffered Mental Health Problems. 3 of the People I knew, 2 of whom I worked with, also took their own Lives. It is a HUGE Problem and NEEDS to be worked on as best as possible. Not enough is done for it which is unacceptable.RIP Robin Williams, an Absolute Legend. P.

  21. It’s been a very sad news, it’s always tragic when someone commits suicide, depression is a real illness. Robin seemed to be a great man, the story you told us on this deeply moving article, is one example of that. As an actor he also brought so much joy to people … Sadly, the greatest smiles often hide the deepest scars and pains.

  22. Your love and admiration for him shine through. I am just so sorry. For you. For his family. For all of us. My heart is heavy.

  23. I thought of you as soon as I heard the news as I knew you worked together. This post is lovely and brought tears to my eyes. It’s been a rough summer of loss. If nothing else, may it remind us all to be in the moment and say the love and gratitude we feel.

  24. Robin Williams was a brilliant actor! He seemed like a very humble gentleman as well, shown by the fact he tried to help you through a difficult period in which you were trying to juggle acting/career.

    I will always remember Robin for his comic genius but also for the more serious roles that he did as well. He always knew how to light up the screen and no doubt, inspire people in real life, even if he was hurting inside, which really saddens me.

    At the moment, I am still trying to come to terms with the passing as it was a real shock and was myself close to tears – he will be sorely missed.

  25. My British reserve and stiff upper lip was shattered this morning when I heard the news about this wonderfully gifted man – I always sensed a true humanity there and your words confirm that for me – My children have grown up loving his humour and so many of his phrases have become part of family life – and always make us smile – just as he did.

  26. Robin Williams and his roles always bright a smile to my face. He was one of those performers who allow me to forget my depressions for a little while.
    I’m nearly in tears reading your story and what he did for you. I feel strange that for once in my life a celebrity death has touched me in such a way that I feel it’s effect on my emotions. Knowing that it was probably his depression that got to him in a way scares me. Then I see the outpouring of love, and that little spark of something like happy comes back.
    They say the kindest people have been hurt the most, and I guess for him it was true. If he believed in the hereafter I hope he can feel everyone’s love for him, his family, and friends.

  27. When I heard about his passing, I remembered the last words he said at the end of The World According To Garp. As the helicopter takes him away, he turns to his wife and says, “I’m flying!”

  28. Thank you so much Lisa for your insight into the heart of Robin Williams. I just watched Mrs Doubtfire and cried through most of it. The world has truly lost a kind, loving and generous soul. The great tragedy is that we couldn’t help him after he gave us so much happiness…straight from his beautiful heart. I have friends and family who suffer badly from depression and I know how important it is that they keep being reminded that they are not alone. Sometimes the storm comes over them and it is then, more than ever, that we need to be there for them to say “it’s going to be ok…this to shall pass soon”…and to give whatever support we can. I wish we could have been there for Robin and others like him that have left us ahead of their time. RIP Robin and thanks for all the colour you painted in our world. It continues to give joy to millions!

  29. Am so sorry for everyone’s loss of what can only be described as a pure genius and legend, he will forever make the world laugh, RIP Robin x

  30. This made me cry, before today he was just known to me as a brilliant, funny actor that was and always will be part of my life as even today i still find myself quoting him, and today I’ve learnt so much about his true character which makes me incredibly sad that he is no longer around. I can’t believe he’s gone

  31. Really lovely piece, Lisa. So sad for all who knew him, he sounded like the loveliest person inside and out. xx

  32. Thank you for this. He touched a lot of folks and was a good human being. I had the chance to meet and talk with him many times and always found him to be approachable, kind and genuine.

  33. Great post about a person who seems like he was a great man. Just watched Mrs. Doubtfire this morning, actually…just seemed like the right thing to do. Appreciate you sharing this kind note about Mr. Williams and the positive reminder about letting people know you care about them while they are here. Everyone has struggles. It’s very sad that his got the best of him. May he rest in peace.

  34. I’d love to repost this for our readership with credit links back to your site. Please let me know if that’s possible.

    Thank you,

    Tracy Bobbitt Editor HollywoodMomBlog.com 22287 Mulholland Hwy., #190 Calabasas, CA 91302

    Follow us on: Twitter: @HollywoodMom Facebook: facebook.com/HollywoodMomBlog Pinterest: @hollywoodmomblg

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