I am surprised by how hard Robin Williams’ death has hit me. I think about what he must have been experiencing the moments before he decided he just couldn’t live a second longer. I think about the aching sadness his family must be feeling. And I feel the aftershocks going through the community at losing such a bright light that brought so much joy.

That man could make people laugh. SO freaking hard. He could also portray very complicated characters that were struggling with demons- and he did it with such authenticity that it wasn’t hard to imagine he was doing some struggling on his own.

Suicide is a complicated issue. I believe mental illness is a disease that requires treatment- medications, counseling, support groups. Whatever the formula- some form of treatment is crucial for survival. We can not ever begin to know how it felt to be in his shoes, to struggle for a calming breath or a peaceful night’s sleep. What we can do, and what I have truly enjoyed in the past 24 hours, is hearing the ways that Robin brought laughter to the world. Excerpts from interviews, clips from his movies… so much talent from such a complex mind. Such effervescence and child-like energy. I am so grateful these gifts are his legacy. I am glad that someday I can show Daisy his magic- Dead Poets Society, Good Will Hunting, Good Morning Vietnam… such amazing movies.

“Real loss is only possible when you love something more than you love yourself…”

Today, I was reminded of this line from Good Will Hunting. It means something completely different to me now than it did when I first heard it back in 1997. I was just graduating college. Good Will Hunting is still, to this day, one of my favorite movies of all time. A few years later, while doing my second year with the AmeriCorps NCCC program, I watched When Dreams May Come while on a project in Puerto Rico during Hurricane George. This movie completely messed with my head. I cried from the first 5 minutes of the film until 4 hours after the film ended. At that time in my life, I had never experienced anyone I deeply cared about dying. Yet this film tapped into a waterfall of emotions. Robin Williams had this ability.

My mother, my father, my very dear friend Shira, and my son… oh, my sweet son. All losses that came way too soon, and have shaken my core. That have made me look at the world through a totally different lens. Losses that collectively have changed the person I am, for better and for worse. Real loss.

And though I’ve never met Robin Williams, I know nothing about the man he was in the privacy of his home when the cameras were turned off… I do know that his death, too, is a real loss. For me and for the world.