The loss of a legend

Editor’s note: This is not a wrestling column, but the comedy community felt a recent loss that many of us here in the wrestling community know all too well.  A star dying before his time.  This column is a nice tribute by Bob Magee, a regular OWW contributor.

AS I SEE IT: The loss of a legend
Bob Magee
Pro Wrestling: Between the Sheets

The world lost its funniest soul last week with the death of Robin Williams. Like most of us of a certain generation, I watched all his hysterically funny movies (and loved Mork and Mindy). I made sure to watch him on TV any time he was listed as appearing. But with all the brilliance, all the humor, and all the sensitivity… he suffered from depression, and had sought treatment for it on more than once occasion, as well as being in rehab from alcohol and drug use, most likely to mask the pain.

Last week his depression became too much for him to bear, and he committed suicide in his Tiburon, CA home at the age of 56.

What might well have been the triggering factor was a recent diagnosis of Parkinson’s Disease. Medically, Parkinson’s can worsen the symptoms of those already suffering from depression.

In addition, Williams had suffered some financial reverses; and it’s not hard to see how the actor/comedian (who ironically in the movie “Awakenings” had played Dr. Malcolm Sayer, a physician at New York City hospital who treated patients duting a 1920s epidemic of encephalitis lethargica, and went to a conference where he’d heard of a new drug L-Dopa used for treating….Parkinson’s patients) feared his symptoms would worsen, preventing him from the physical exercise that he used as a coping mechanism for depression, and most notably that he would not be able to perform and support his family; and made the choice to take his own life.

Here’s some things that need to be said:

Suicide is not “selfish” or “immoral”. It comes from feeling a pain that becomes too much for you to be able to cope with….and the thought that others might be better off without you. That comes from the attitude that depression is a character flaw, rather than a medical condition…and that asking for help means others will think less of you.

That fear played out in some ignorant statements made by public figures such as Rush Limbaugh and Gene Simmons about Williams and those with depression. Ignorance like this is beyond disgusting.

Robin Williams is being remembered by many accross the world, and will always be. When he meets his Maker, Rush Limbaugh will likely only be remembered by pharmacists and dittoheads.

The world knew Robin Williams’s brilliant humor. But with all of that, I remember instead two of his serious roles.

First, in the darkly serious 1998 movie “What Dreams May Come”, in which his character died and went to a beautiful Heaven called Summerland. But he instead chose to search for his wife who died after a suicide… and was in what was depicted as a dark vision of Hell. I remember the verse from Shakespeare’s Hamlet that gave the movie its title:

“For in that sleep of death what dreams may come,
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil…”

I remember his character having a love for his wife that crossed boundaries of life and death, Heaven and Hell.

I always thought Williams was searching for something with roles like this; including the next movie I think of…the movie “Jack”, a Francis Ford Coppola movie of a boy who suffered from a disease called Werner’s Syndrome, similar to Progeria; which ages children at a four times normal rate. The movie, with Diane Lane and Bill Cosby chonicles his brief life.

At his high school graduation “Jack” delivered a beautiful valedictory speech, aged 72 in body and 18 in mind:

“I don’t have very much time these days, so I’ll make it quick. Like my life. You know, as we come to the end of this phase of our life, we find ourselves trying to remember the good times and trying to forget the bad times, and we find ourselves thinking about the future.

We start to worry, thinking, ‘What am I gonna do? Where am I gonna be in ten years?’ But I say to you, ‘Hey, look at me!’

Please, don’t worry so much. Because in the end, none of us have very long on this Earth. Life is fleeting. And if you’re ever distressed, cast your eyes to the summer sky when the stars are strung across the velvety night. And when a shooting star streaks through the blackness, turning night into day… make a wish and think of me.

Indeed, Robin Williams was a singular shooting star through what is all too often the blackness of our time.

May your dreams be like Summerland in What Dreams May Come, Robin: a Heaven full of brightness, and beauty and joy….full of the joy and laughter you gave to so many, but couldn’t find for yourself; and may you find an Eternal Light that will shine through the darkness you couldn’t overcome.

— Bob Magee