Tuesday, August 12, 2014

In Memoriam: Robin Williams (1951 - 2014)

I'm staring at the blinking cursor willing the words the come. Willing the thoughts to stop swirling in my head so I can properly explain what Robin Williams has meant to me. But I just keep staring at the cursor and my eyes continue to water with every second that goes by. I need to put my thoughts down, you see. I don't know why it's such a fervent need but it is. I can't concentrate on work. Can't redirect my focus to the tasks on my to-do list. Can't even look at social media without gravitating to the thousands of memorial posts, pictures, videos of a man who was a part of so many lives, he was family and MADE us family through our shared love for him.

For me, his death is a reminder that even the greats suffer but most of all, he's a link my father and I share. He's a year younger than my dad and when he first appeared on the scene, he was one of my father's favorite comedians. I grew up listening to my dad retell the jokes Robin told on stage with a few of my father's one-liners thrown in for good measure.

In the 80s, when we moved to Florida from Puerto Rico, my dad and I would watch the Comic Relief specials on HBO and practically pee our pants with laughter over the golden trio: Billy, Whoopi and Robin!


When the news first broke about his death, I was at my parents' home singing happy birthday to my 15-year-old niece. I read the news in a text alert from my local news channel. I was instantly shocked and despite not really wanting to, found myself clicking on the link to read the full news report then mentioned his passing to my family who instantly stopped what they were doing and stared at me with the same shock I'm sure I was showing as I continued to read the news reports as thousands of people flooded social media with memorial posts. I couldn't look at my dad. He looks too much like Robin did in his final days and I couldn't see what it would mean to him to know another of his favorites is gone.

The Guardian, 2010 (Getty Images)
I don't know why we have such a fascination with death in the US and I guess Robin was right when he said that we mythologize people when they die but I can understand why we memorialize those who affected our lives one way or another. We do it to keep their memory alive. To share in the pain and to keep a part of the person we've lost close. I suppose we do it because we don't like to lose.

I'm going to spend most of my day playing Robin Williams videos in the background while I work today. Not just to memorialize him today but to keep his voice and spirit alive for one more day.