I was on the Isle of Iona, Scotland several weeks ago when I heard the news about Robin Williams’ suicide and subsequently, his depression and the revelation that he had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease.
This death has had an unexpected and deep impact in my heart. I do not know why, I just know it is true. Since his death, I have found myself watching videos of his appearances on old Johnny Carson shows or David Letterman, or Williams’ stand-up routine on stages. In addition, I have watched some clips from his movies–one from “Good Morning, Vietnam” that had me laughing so hard I was crying. Then I watched a most powerful and moving clip from Dead Poets’ Society, where the young men defy someone in power by standing on top of their desks as their former teacher leaves for the last time. “Captain, My Captain,” several say, as each climbs to stand tall and proud. I watched this clip and wept as I thought of the loss of this brilliant, funny, deep man. He also happened to be a Christian, and a fellow Episcopalian [yes, Robin Williams is the one who gave us the Top Ten Reasons For Being an Episcopalian (on an HBO Special)–you may have seen computer mouse pads or t-shirts with these]:
9. You can believe in dinosaurs.
8. Male and female God created them; male and female we ordain them.
7. You don’t have to check your brains at the door.
6. Pew aerobics.
5. Church year is color-coded.
4. Free wine on Sunday.
3. All of the pageantry – none of the guilt.
2. You don’t have to know how to swim to get baptized.
And the Number One reason to be an Episcopalian:
1. No matter what you believe, there’s bound to be at least one other Episcopalian who agrees with you.”
I read somewhere that someone, upon hearing of Williams’ death, did what she admitted was illegal. She pulled many pictures of him from the internet, and looked at them all. She said that when she did, she could see that over time, the light in his eyes had dimmed, then seemed to go out completely. She noted that he still smiled, but that the smile no longer reached his eyes.
If you would like to read Bishop Scott Benhase’s letter and Joanie’s response, use this link to her website: http://celticjlp.wordpress.com/2014/09/03/a-response-to-the-bishop-of-georgias-e-crozier-post-on-the-death-of-robin-williams-from-an-openly-bipolar-cleric/
From Meditation 17 by John Donne
Although we would now use such patriarchal language today, the meaning is still the same. What diminishes one of us, diminishes all of us. This is true whether it is in our society at large, or in the church community. A butterfly flutters its wings somewhere in the Southern Hemisphere, and eventually, climate is changed in the Northern Hemisphere, hundreds of thousands of miles away. One person’s joy radiates. Likewise, that person’s despair affects others. Truly, we are one for all and all for one.
Too many people suffering from depression give up. The light goes out for them, and they believe–whether rightly or wrongly–that suicide stops being a question and becomes an answer. Unfortunately, that particular answer leaves families with unanswered questions, inevitable “what if’s” and deep, lasting grief.
If you are deeply depressed and you have thought about ending your life, please know that a) you are not alone and b) you can get the help you need to keep suicide a question and not an answer. Please know that there are many professional resources, some of which are available 24/7.
You could use this link: http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/
There are mental health professionals available to help you–whether that is a physician, therapist, Twelve Step group or other support group. It really is okay to ask for what you need!
If you are a veteran, you can also use this link:
Teenagers could use http://www.help4mdyouth.org/
Many people live with depression and other issues. If I can help prevent one death, I promise, as your priest and pastor, to help in any way I can. There are many mental health professionals available to help you–whether that is a physician, Physician’s Assistant, therapist, Twelve Step group or other support group. It really is okay to ask for the help you need—and yes, you–beautiful child of God–you are worth it.
If you have not seen this beautiful, one-minute tribute to Robin Williams, take sixty seconds and watch it:
I hope you will give thanks to God for, and celebrate, his life. I also hope you will give thanks to God for, and celebrate, your own life.