It’s been a little over 3 weeks since our collective hearts were broken by your passing, and I feel there are things I would have loved to have told you if I only had the chance. I sat down to write this with so much appreciation for what you gave us that I was not even sure how to address the letter. Mr. Williams shows respect but I have the feeling no one was allowed to call you that. I wanted to address it to the funny man up in heaven, but since I believe you want to be remembered as so much more than that, I ultimately decided on merely going with Robin.
It’s important that I begin by addressing your death. Although most of those I speak with loved what you gave the world and feel sadness at your loss, there are some who are not as kind or tolerant, calling you a coward or showing anger at what they see as the lack of morality in suicide. It is because of this that I wish to relay to you a story. In the late 70s in the Dutch city of Arnhem there was a man, with a lovely wife and young teenage daughter who was so scarred from the events that took place during the Nazi occupation of Holland that he had lived much of his adult life with often debilitating mental illness. Although he was a man who was gentle and loving to his wife and daughter, his inner torment was so severe that he would occasionally explode in a verbal rage in public forums, most notably the local synagogue. The Rabbi leading the congregation would see this on a regular basis, get to know the man and his family well, and rather than address something that could not be fixed, worked around it, making the man and his daughter as welcome as possible. Sadly the man’s inner rage caught up with him and one day the Rabbi received the horrifying call that was tragically somewhat inevitable. The man had taken a gun and shot himself dead. In the Jewish religion, suicides takes away the rights to a proper burial and the proper etiquette of mourning. However, fully aware of the mental condition of the man, and at least somewhat aware of the cause, the Rabbi made a decree that the man was not actually a victim of suicide but a victim of mental illness caused by the horrors of war. The Rabbi, in my opinion admirably, made the distinction between someone who was escaping problems in his life or running from shame, from one finding freedom of an inescapable torment. As a result of this decree the man received the respect and honor anyone else would have received upon their death. Personally I always felt great admiration for the Rabbi’s decision on this matter. It taught me so much about how to apply compassion when compassion is due, and it made me see suicide as something that is not ever a black and white issue. I was always grateful for what the Rabbi taught me from his actions, especially since the Rabbi was my late father.
I know there are those who will argue that there is no comparison with what someone went through between 1940-45 in Holland and what you went through in your life. Of course that is true and I am sure you would be the first person to say that. The point I am making is not to compare the cause of the demons, but the actual demons themselves. We can easily make a judgment as to whose life was worse, but we can’t make a judgment to who felt worse. Your torment brought your life to a similar conclusion and although everyone is entitled to their opinion, that is the source of my personal compassion.
As far as who you were for so many of us I wish to tell you the following. You made us happier. As a fan of yours I go all the way back to the Mork & Mindy days. I will never forget a classic scene, one I unfortunately can’t find anywhere online, in which “Mork”, played by you of course, was holding a jar of ants, and someone, I believe Mindy said, “those ants are revolting”, in which Mork replied, “actually they’re quite happy with their present form of government. Look! They’re even dancing.” It was not till later that I learned this wasn’t even a scripted scene. Apparently this scene, like many others on the show was ad-libbed by you.
When it came to your movies my 2 favorites were “The Fisher King”, a remarkable movie, one I believe to be highly underrated, in which you play a vagrant whose life was tragically altered by a tragic loss. And the second movie ironically is the beautiful movie, “What dreams may come”. I say ironically, because this movie not only deals with the matter of suicide, but forgiveness for suicide as well. I can’t imagine what impact it has on someone’s psyche to get into character for movies like these, but in both of these movies your performances were brilliantly moving and I suspect impacted you emotionally in one way or another.
I spoke with someone just yesterday who agreed that part of what made you so special was that so many of us felt a connection to you. Everyone has those favorite entertainers they feel a connection with. What set you apart is the fact that millions felt that with you. For what you were to us and the service you provided to us, you were admired and loved. Unfortunately that love is a very superficial love and not nearly enough to chase away the demons that destroyed you.
I did not know your personal life, but by all accounts you had people close to you that loved you dearly as well. This makes what happened even more baffling and complicated. I don’t dare to say I know why the pain you felt was so great, but I will share the theory I proposed to the person I was speaking about you to yesterday. There are occasions when I am really on. When that happens I am funny, sharp and personable. I can draw on some of those qualities on command to some extent, some of the time, but to draw on all of those qualities at once I need the stars to align and to feel just right. Subsequently I can’t predict if and when it will happen. It is my guess that you were able to access all those qualities at a moment’s notice, and that therefore you never achieved the high regular people like I get when we do hit that peak. You always hit that peak, which in an odd way may have given you less to look forward to. Again, I don’t know this, but in knowing a little bit about who you were, I can’t help but wonder if that was a factor.
Then again maybe it is something as simple as wanting to be seen as more than the funny man or entertainer, maybe you wanted something deeper you could never find. If that is the case the pain and suffering that ultimately took you from us is even more tragic. Because in your professional brilliance, be it in comedy or drama, you brought so much to so many people that we all feel you deserved better. And the personal attachments you had, so many of which seem to have been loving and close connections also didn’t succeed in bringing you the peace to go on any further.
In the past few months I’ve put out letters to a number of celebrities over the events taking place in the world today. Events that are concerning at best, terrifying at worst. The day you died I said, “at a time when we needed humor the most we lost the funniest man on the planet.” Maybe that was a burden too hard for you to bear. If that is the case I for one am sorry for the pressure that put on you.
I end this letter with an interesting and mystical thought. As of yet I don’t know who if any of the celebrities I’ve written to have read my letters. However, somehow I feel that you will see this letter. If you do I leave you with this. Thank you, rest in peace, and please, when you get the chance, tell my Dad a joke.
Follow Holland’s Heroes on Twitter @hollandsheroes