I cannot get the movie “What Dreams May Come” out of my head. I keep thinking about the beauty of pastels, our next life, the world, human reality.
A vision of “Dead Poet’s Society” also keeps running through my mind, as I see the professor walking his new students along the line of auspicious predecessors. “Oh Captain, My Captain,” we do miss you, and we will weep for you.
I am not alone in having followed the adventures of the zany alien in “Mork and Mindy” 35 years ago. I was a year out of high school, a depressed teenager not knowing where my future led. That show, and Mork’s spontaneous humor, helped me to laugh despite myself.
These were all characters that Robin Williams played over his remarkable career. His most difficult role was always living with himself.
Rodney Dangerfield, shortly before he died, said his lifestyle was one of the loneliest possible. Despite making people laugh every day, he walked around, the real Rodney, isolated and depressed. I have to believe that Jonathan Winters, Williams’ mentor, dealt with difficult days.
Winters and Williams both were diagnosed with bipolar disorder, an affliction that fueled their creative energy but equally drained them of their own realistic outlooks on life. Winters was a master at his craft; he lived a whole life. Robin was his student, who continued to seek the truth in his own life. In the end, he couldn’t fight through the demons that buried him in his personal hell.
We’re supposed to be unforgiving of those who choose to take their own lives before their time. I have experienced losses in my life that have left me confused and angry. I have wondered why people give up, and have not supported their horrid decisions. I have lost both friend and acquaintance, and certainly felt the confusion that follows the losses of celebrities, those iconic people who entertain us and amaze us with their inherent talents.
I questioned Pete Duel’s taking his own life in 1971, ending my favorite series, “Alias Smith and Jones.” I was 12 and had just lost my cousin to tragedy. I didn’t understand. I just knew they were not coming back. I was upset. My life went on.
Our lives are vulnerable enough beyond the insidious nature of depression. So often our “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” society refuses to acknowledge this real misery in the lives of those closest to us and in the people who compel us to the silver screen.
I do weep for Robin Williams because he lost his battle, and chose the only option he believed he had, having removed himself from support systems that probably held him together for years. I weep for his spouse, who is left to live with the memory of his finality.
Her request is that we spend our time remembering the joy this man brought to our lives. I will do that with tears.
Thom Amundsen lives in Savage.