Carpe Diem. Why I miss Robin Williams.

It’s been a couple of weeks since the passing of one of entertainment’s most memorable and energetic men, Robin Williams. I was on Long Island when I heard the news. My aunt and I watched in stunned disbelief as the news reports rolled in. Emotions welled up and I felt the same as when I heard of the passing of Philip Seymour Hoffman in February. Both men led lives that were beyond the ordinary. But it wasn’t their public presence that made them special, it was something far more profound.

I’ve read several blogs and articles about Robin since August 11th. I’ve had some time to process and asked myself why I felt such a great sense of loss at his tragic passing. My prayers continue to be lifted up and extended toward his wife and children. I’m not unfamiliar to loss, even tragic loss, but I’ve felt particularly sensitive to his. Maybe it’s because his is the latest in a rapid succession I've experienced? Perhaps. But I’m beginning to see that it’s because of something more momentous.

When I was growing up I enjoyed watching Happy Days. I always liked Fonzie. My grandfather’s name was Alfonso and for a time my parents considered naming me after him. As I recall, sometimes friends would call him, Fonz, for short. At times I thought it would’ve been an honor to carry his name. What was additionally interesting about Happy Days was that, in some subtle ways, my father looked like Tom Bosley who played the father, Howard Cunningham. I had a lot of connection with the show. I watched Happy Days often and enjoyed the humor and lessons the show put forth. Although I didn’t note it then, I do remember Robin Williams’ debut as the Space Alien in the show. He was hysterical as he added an extra dose of eccentrics. That's when I started growing up with Robin Williams.

Dead Poets Society is one of my absolute favorite movies. The lessons Robin’s character, John Keating, teaches I use today to impart a sense of urgency in life and to encourage others to live to the fullest their God-given passions. Other films, like Mrs. Doubtfire, What Dreams May Come, Patch Adams, Hook, Awakenings, The Birdcage and of course, Good Morning Vietnam, are all films I have and will continue to enjoy for a long time. But it’s not for what he gave or how he blessed us with comedy, emotion, passion and energy, that I miss him but for something much deeper.

What I’ll always remember about Robin was his absolute indisputable creative uniqueness. He didn’t simply take lines from a script and make them live – he was excellent at that. Rather, he drew from his deep well of comedic DNA original creativity that both astounded and captivated me. If you’ve never watched an interview with Robin where there’s no script you’ll be mesmerized at the wealth of genius and spontaneity he displays.

I don’t miss him because he made me laugh or because he entertained me – I think that’s shallow praise. I miss him because he displayed a creative uniqueness that was woven into the fabric of his being. He displayed his God-given distinctiveness and for that I mourn his loss.

Death was never part of the original human matrix. But we can’t play outside of the lines and not expect to get bruised. That’s how death came in. We decided to go beyond the caring, protective and instructive boundaries set for us and we’re paying the dear price for it now. Death stinks!

I live in a subculture that, at times, celebrates death. I understand and agree with this mindset because of the promise of Jesus that we can have hope. But there should also be a sense of angry grief that grips us when people die. There’s something profoundly not right in death. There’s something absolutely precious about life and I hope most people sense this. I think Dylan Thomas captured this well in his poem, Do not go gentle into that good night.

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
— Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night, Dylan Thomas

I think we need to go beyond simplistic sentiments about how people gave to others or blessed others when we remember them in their death. I’m beginning to believe that death takes with it something far more precious than these things – and we should be angry, even if for a short time. Death steals that which man cannot give, life! It is divine, costly, and irreplaceable and we should guard it and fight for it.

There is in each of us a fearful and wonderful creativity deposited by God that He longs for us to live from. As you wander through life, will you draw deeply from this well? I hope you do! It is essential that you express this creative uniqueness not just to bless others but because the Creator placed it within you and it is an expression of His loving thumbprint on your life! It’s one of the things that makes you, you! Do not succumb to the pressures and pains of this world, rage, rage against the dying of the light! Fight, fight against death and all its minions! Live, live for God because, as a good friend has said, “You’re the only you there will ever be!”

Carpe Diem, Seize the Day!

The egg of a House Wren amidst twigs from a Japanese Zelkova tree. The nest is made in a gourd. The gourd was made into a birdhouse by one of my wife's students. Life is precious, especially human life. Fight, fight against the dying of the light!