Farewell to Robin Williams: a thank you note


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:

Screen Shot 2016-04-28 at 8.13.21 AM.png

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

    1. Beautifully written. Thank you for sharing. Robin Williams was so much more than an amazingly talented actor/comedian. He was an amazing human being with a heart of gold. His presence would light up a room, and just his existence alone brought so much joy to so many people across the globe. He taught us a lot during his time on this planet, but I feel like his departure was a lesson too: we need to raise awareness and become more pro-active, as a society, about mental health issues. I looked at suicide in a totally different way before Robin’s death. I didn’t focus so much on the person who had passed, and their inner demons. But someone who enjoyed bringing joy to others, would never do something to intentionally upset those around him and his fans. He must have had some wicked inner demons. This makes me sad more than anything. I picture him in a happy and peaceful and colorful place right now. I wish the best for his family, and I hope that people will be respectful during these times.

  1. I Love Ribin William in every movie he had acted in but i love Mrs Doubtfire the most because it was funny hartfelt. I dont know u but u i love u in that movie Remeber when u say to ur mom we R his god dam kids too love it thank u mr william n may ur soul rest in peace

  2. Great story, thank you for sharing. It’s nice to hear how genuinely kind he was.
    PS I am a die hard Independence Day fan, we even have the extended version. Yep.

  3. I am a subsititue teacher and have been teaching for 52 years. I often share my trials in overcoming stumbling blocks set before me because I grew up with a hearing defect until I was told there was help for me.at the age of 18 . Even then, I still had to overcome peoples attitudes that had already been set in the 18 years before my surgery, Illness and handicap often lead to bully tactics we see in our society today and I am sure even in the generations before mine.It makes anyone afraid to share their health issues for it brings on that depression, low self esteem and self worth.BY sharing my story with my young friends I am trying to change the their young minds as to how bullying is harmful not only to the ones they are bullying;but, also to them. What we do or say often comes around if not now, it will most often later in life. When I was a youngster it was hard for me to admit that I had a hearing defect, now I use it as a teaching tool. As I tell my many student,guess what has happened to many of my tormentors. They can not hears so well now as they have grown older. I was a very blessed person for my parents would not allow the school and society to rob me of my dreams. Thank you Mom and Dad.. Mr. Williams, like many I loved you in all your movies, As a teacher, I liked Mrs. Doubtfire because not only was it humorous but it taught a good lesson about life and the gift of loving. To those left to grieve for him.The heavenly Father, what ever you believe, is pleased with his son Robin because he used his given talent with the laughter and the deep caring for another. That left a huge impact on their lives believe me

  4. Thank you Lisa!
    Robin Williams’s death touched my heart also. Your blog post and his email to your teacher are loving gifts to us all.

    Stefan Jungar,
    I trust R.W. is in peace.

    Here we all can find amazing tools to get in peace while continuing our life:
    It’s YouTube channel of healingmagic owned by Robert G. Smith from http://www.fastereft.com

    The videos and tools you can find from there are worth every minute you spend with them.

    Much love,

  5. Wow….powerful, thank you so much for sharing. Strange how I feel like I’ve lost a friend.

  6. Thank you for sharing your experiences and emotions. Having had a personal experience with the loss of someone close by suicide it is comforting to see so many others coming out and writing about the dangers of depression and mental health issues.

    1. Also, I wrote about my experience and the general approach to depression and suicide on my site wp.me/p4LYLQ-4l . As sad as all this is, hopefully it might inspire us to see the signs more clearly, engage with those who are suffering, and understand the damage which can be done by not addressing the issue.

  7. When a life ends, grief is inevitable.
    Yet, tears are the dew of the future and remembrance is the salt of life.

    Although a little more alone, we will continue.
    This is how we honor the dead and unite ourselves more with the living.

    There is no death. Only memories!
    Love will maintain the warmth of their presence within and amongst us.

    Thank you, Robin. May you rest in peace!

    Thank you, Lisa, for sharing.


  8. I posted your blog on my Facebook page. Lisa, you are a beautiful writer and a lovely young woman. Thank you for sharing your story with us. As one who has battled depression for years, I have come to realize that creativity comes with a price. Whenever you put yourself out there, you become exposed to all kinds of things — critics, fans, thoughtless remarks, unexpected kindnesses, lack of anonymity… But you have given everyone who has read your tribute to Robin Williams a rare gift… a peek into the real man. Thank you, beautiful, brave girl.

  9. Lisa I lost my father on the same day that Robin Williams passed. Your words moved me and wonder whether I had taken enough time when my Dad was alive to thank him for everything that he had done for me. Sadly, I don’t think that I did. But I also believe in the last moments that we were together that he we both knew the strength of the love between us.
    Lisa, your writing has often made me stop and think about my own life and this posting is no exception. Thank you for your quiet words.

  10. Reblogged this on ameliemelina and commented:
    Thank you so much for sharing this with.
    I can’t realize even now, that he’s really gone. It’s a kind of silly game of destiny. Him.. thw great clown… the good man.. the never grew-up kid. Peter pan. Left our hearts with this big..big.. sorrow. It’s a kind of funny. All his damn Life passed mailing laugh. And then… puff. He left us with a bitter sense of sadness. Will never ever go away.
    Thx again. I’m envious of you that you could met him. Take care of your memories with him. Frances

  11. Reblogged this on ameliemelina and commented:
    Thank you so much for sharing this with.
    I can’t realize even now, that he’s really gone. It’s a kind of silly game of destiny. Him.. thw great clown… the good man.. the never grew-up kid. Peter pan. Left our hearts with this big..big.. sorrow. It’s a kind of funny. All his damn Life passed mailing laugh. And then… puff. He left us with a bitter sense of sadness. Will never ever go away.
    Thx again. I’m envious of you that you could met him. Take care of your memories with him. Frances

  12. Thank you for your wonderful story about Robin. He is a man that I have admired ever since “Mork and Mindy”. These heart warming stories about Robin help everyone through this difficult time. May all of your future endeavors also be successful.

  13. Thank you for this. I just saw “Mrs. Doubtfire” for the who-knows-what time, the day after part of me died with Robin. Thank you for your words on Depression and how many suffer from it. I am one of those, hence, Robin is a hero, no matter what has happened. He made me smile and laugh when I needed it so.

    “We always watch Dick Van Dyke.” *chuckles* I remember that line of yours from the movie for some reason.

    Thank you, Lisa. Thank you for your life and for being one of the people who make the world a better place just by being here, just as Robin did.

    M. Alexander

  14. So nice to come across blogs that are saying something kind about this man. I can’t for the life of me figure out how so many people can be so judgmental about something they know absolutely nothing about, that to me is the scariest part. I lost a close friend to suicide in 2010 and am still not over it. All my heart does is break for everyone, I don’t feel the anger or hatred so many people seem to.. Robin was genuinely one of my all-time favorite actors, as he shed some joy and positivity on my childhood, which otherwise was neither joyful or positive. Those are things that you cannot thank someone enough for, not that I would have ever had the chance anyway if he was alive still, but it really does make you reflect on things that you never really knew were even present in the first place. Since you’re still alive, Lisa, thank you too for being a positive part of my childhood. 🙂

  15. Hi Lisa!

    This was really great. It made me cry a bit. Wow this is so heartwarming. Also very glad I came across your blog. I am 16, I have depression too. It hurts doesn’t it. Well we are all standing by you. If I could give you a warm hug right now I would. Sorry that was awkward but it’s the truth. Keep being amazing.

  16. Goodbye Robin and rest in peace. I have read what a beautiful human being you were and I am very saddened by this tragedy. You were so loved. I am sorry you suffered for many years. I pray for your lovely family and good friends who are sad in your absense. No one can ever take away the countless memories. Thank you for all you did for people all over the world. You will truley be missed.

  17. I actually purchased the “Behind-The-Seams” edition of MRS. DOUBTFIRE, and I really loved the extra scenes involving the children listening to the parents fight. I realized that those scenes would have brought the film to more dramatic / darker level, but they were great scenes, nonetheless.

    Although I feel his loss because of my admiration of him, you knew and worked with him, which makes it a personal loss.

    He’ll always be a part of our lives. I’m glad I was able to enjoy his performances, & I hope your heart heals as fast as he made us laugh.


  18. This was a lovely post and it reveals the heart of a kind and sweet man whom we all instinctively knew was kind, special and precious. The darkness we all face is diminished somehow by laughter and that made Robin the brightest torch against the night.He was our hero, the warm fire that welcomed us to draw near and find comfort in it’s glow.I hope he is in as much peace as he gave.

  19. So raw, such truth, and eloquently written. We all try at some point in our lives to run away from our past. …what I’ve learned is, it’s made me who I am today no matter how hard I try to let it go and forget some of the choices I have made……

    1. Dear Elizabeth,
      Remember the only thing which is real is this very moment.

      Here’s something I encourage you to contemplate:
      “Your memories about the past do not come from the past but from your creative mind and it’s holdings. Your past, the past lives, the future do not come from what used to be but from your mind’s ability to create. All your current understandings, feelings, pains, hurts, love’s and joys are all great works of your creative mind. You always see, feel, project and distort from this place; once you understand this system you’ll have the ability to create a life others wish to have.”
      -Robert G. Smith 3.6.2014-

      It’s very important to pay attention to what memories from the past we keep rehearsing.

      No matter what has happened to us we always have a choice to start living the way we want to.

  20. Lisa,
    What a beautiful, honest and deeply moving tribute. It is such a simple but hugely telling tale of the kind of generous nature, warm heart and spirit Mr Williams embodied.
    I am no actress but I love film and I loved Robin. I am about your age and I grew up with his work particularly when he was flying high in the 1990s.

    I offer you my condolences and I have said a prayer for his family and for him and I hope he is at peace now. I was crying the other day when I watched his acceptance speech for Good Will Hunting. It was not what he said that made me cry. It was that little tiny moment where he smiled at the audience. His whole heart lit up and he melted my heart with his warm smile. He was so well-meaning and I just cried.

    Your story just made me cry. I hope you are doing well and that you are happy whatever you are doing now. God bless you.


  21. Mrs. Doubtfire has always been my absolute favorite movie. Thank you for being such a great part of it. I always wanted to meet Robin because he seemed like such a wonderful person and someone I would love to know; not just because he was famous but just because he was a genuinely sweet person. I know you cherish your time with him and I, along with the rest of the world, mourn his passing. So sorry for everyone’s loss.

  22. Merci pour vos quelques mots sur Robin Williams. Il est toujours agréable de voir un acteur de cinéma autrement que part ses films.
    Il semblait être un homme d’une grande gentillesse, et cela se ressentait au travers tant de ses films, que de ses apparitions dans des émissions télévisées.

    Merci à vous, et en vous souhaitant une vie pleine de joie et de bonheur.

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