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. Beautiful story! People need to be there for one another. There is so much suffering in the world and it is not always so obvious as it is not always socially “acceptable”. Please love one another….life is short and precious

  2. Thank you for sharing this lovely story. There are people who come into your lives who make a serious difference. It sounds like Robin was an great inspiration for you up close. My condolences.

  3. Thank you for that. It’s nice to know that there are still some genuinely nice people in Hollywood. Robin Williams will be missed.

  4. Thank you for your lovely tribute to Robin Williams, Lisa.

    I wish I knew what else to say, except “thank you” — but since I don’t have any other words (a writer having no words is not good, but that’s where I stand, and have stood, since I heard the news of Mr. Williams’ passing), it will have to do.

  5. Kindness begets kindness. Your encouragement to reach out to others will help – maybe save – some people. I’m sure Robin would be proud of you for this.

  6. Thanks for your glad remembrance of Robin Williams, and more importantly for your willingness to share your unconventional journey. Much soul. Peace and best, John

  7. I’ve seen the movie a couple of times, but now i read this, I really see the “fatherlike” figure in Him, the way he handeld your problem, the way he handels kids, that only makes it harder to accept that he had a depression. The best Robin

  8. Thank you for this beautiful blog post about Robin. What a good man he was. I am having such a hard time processing that he’s gone. A man I didn’t know personally and had never met, but he impacted me so significantly. He was one of the good things that defined what was best about our pop culture. I’m glad you had such a person in your life and that he, yes indeed, had your back. Thank you for sharing this. That school has a whole lot of chutzpah, huh?

  9. Thank you for sharing this with us. We are all in our hearts still 14 year old kids. Old hurts and old victories surface and re-surface. My high school provided me with a really bad experience that I have not forgotten. Why they can’t see the big picture that their decisions affect people’s futures I’ll never understand.

    I’ve had very few people in my corner like Robin was in yours. They are gone now too. I am so sorry for your loss.

    Depression is very real and in this decade should have no stigmas. We, none of us need to feel alone, yet when we are depressed, we all do. I feel for what Robin must have been going through and understand it all too well.

    Big huggz honey!

  10. Sitting here thinking how he touched millions he didn’t even meet and yet none of us could help a man who was kind to so many, I hope his death will bring change of this terrible disease so people are not afraid to speak out. I feel in his last role he inspired the world to change the stigma of this disease and people are “coming out” and talking about how they feel and what it’s like, I do not suffer from it but the last week have learned a lot due to all the discussion about it and my friends coming forward. Thank you for your beautiful post, I am sure Robyn knew how much it meant to you he sent the letter to your school and tried to help, your thank you note from a 14 year old was enough.

  11. Lisa,

    Thank you so much for sharing your story. When I heard the news I went into shock over his passing and the manner as to how it was ended. His passing has very much effected my girlfriend and I. I can only imagine how painful it has been for you and many who have worked with him and those lives he has touched in a personal way.

    All those who have known Robin have expressed what a kind person he was and how good he has been to them and all others. Not a unkind word has been spoken about him. That says a lot about a person in this day of age.

    Julie and I have bought every film that Robin has made We just saw the one with you and Robin. We laugh and cry throughout each of them. At the end, we cry even a bit more over this loss.

    Lisa, thank you for sharing your story with us. We also are terribly sorry for your loss of your dear friend and please accept our deepest condolences

    Tim & Julie

  12. Robin would be proud of you for the lovely letter you wrote i Didn’t know him
    In person but i grew up watching him on TV so i felt as if i lost a friend if you grew up being touched by the type of person he was he could be in your heart forever. He was a beautiful kind Soul and what he did for you was kindness in his heart he will be very proud of you of this letter In your heart he ‘ll thank you

  13. Heartfelt. Naked. Honest. Beautiful. I love you for that letter. Please let me know if you need ANYTHING

  14. The movie Mrs. Doubtfire has inspired me in some ways that up until now I could get those nostalgic feeling. Thank you Lisa for sharing wonderful thoughts like this. Robin Williams will always be remembered.

  15. Makes me respect Robin that much more. I am a bit curious to know how your high school issue was resolved.

  16. Wow.. Watching mrs doubtfire at the moment. It’s so hard to understand why people get to the point wen they feel like they cannot go on.. Such a cinematic cult hero of so many. Will always be in our hearts.. We will always remember the laughter and the smile of a great comedian actor. What a man, and too those who knew him as above,what a great human being. We will always miss him.

  17. I have enjoyed your acting. You are a beautiful person, inside and out, and your writing shows that. You are talented in many ways. Please continue to share your talents.
    Thank you for the story about Robin Williams. I remember when I first saw him on the television series Mork and Mindy. He was fantastic!
    Good luck to you, peace to you, in all that you do.

  18. Just finished watching Mrs. Doubtfire for the umpteenth time. You were so blessed to have landed that role. Such a stunning little actress in your own right.
    Your word choice was a beautiful tribulation to Robyn. Very powerful, moving, and inspiring.
    Can’t wait for your book.
    Donna M.

    1. I’m sure you meant to say ‘tribute’ instead of tribulation which means trials and troubles😺

  19. A couple things.

    My heart broke when Robin Williams passed away.

    I was so happy to see you help break down the stigma of depression. I have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and it sucks, but with support, meds, and converting, life is a little easier.

    Kudos to you!!!

  20. His kindness, humor, generosity and gentle spirit was obvious to those who loved him through watching him entertain. How fortunate you were to know and work with such a rare and incredible man. Your book does a beautiful job portraying how it was his nature to go above and beyond for those he cared about and how he cared about so many. Thank you for sharing your special memories of a man that most of us would never really meet but felt like we knew just through the openess of his heart. I do hope he is at peace and his death raised awareness of how lonely depression/suicide is.

  21. Robin was always doing things like that for other people, even for complete strangers. His was a genuinely kind heart. Lisa, it sounds like you took his gift to heart and now it’s still giving, because you’re passing on what his heart gave to you. I doubt there can be a much better testimony to any one individual. :O)

  22. Thank you Lisa. Robin could see a kind, sensitive child in you and knew how to treat you. I’m happy to see you follow your passion. Writing can be so powerful but yet so calming. I got myself lost in it whilst battling cancer a few years ago. And yes, depression is more common than we think. I look following to following you and your “down-to-earth” pursuits. Keep believing in yourself…wherever it leass you. 😉

  23. Thanks for sharing your thoughts with the rest of us, Lisa. Your school leaders should’ve been ashamed of themselves, for using your work as a cheap excuse to deny you an education. From your details alone, it seems they were just a group of lazy-ass idiots.

    I never met Robin, but I really respected his dedication to his craft…and especially his concern for people poorer than himself. I think the oldest of his films I ever saw was “The Survivors”, with Walter Matthau and Jerry Reed – its hard to believe they’re all gone now. Prior to his death, I think the most-recent of his work I’d seen was “Night at the Museum 2″…but my absolute favorite is the vastly-underrated “Bicentennial Man”. The message of that film about the importance of life, and being loved as you are, is something we should all remember.

  24. This is absolutely beautiful!! He was an endlessly talented and warm-hearted person. The world has been forever changed by his amazing life and deeply felt passing. Thank you for sharing this. Rest in peace, sweet Robin. 💜

  25. Thanks very much Lisa for writing such a beautiful tribute to Robin. Such a great man. He was so humorous in Mrs. Doubtfire.
    Your message to those who are depressed was also touching, because mental health is such a vital issue nowadays. You telling the depressed that they are loved and that they are not alone was such a mood-booster for me. That was such a vital advocacy. Just keep up the good work and continue to inspire more who are suffering.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s