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* – The asterisk by his name

We have lost a true treasure. No. Not the kind of physical treasure you can hold in your hand, but an enormous personality in the form of actor, comedian, father, and husband we knew as Robin Williams.

Many of us grew up with him, or at least grew older. His sardonic wit, his manic expertise in identifying the deep depths of humor, coupled with a natural charm and grace, endeared him to his many fans. Robin Williams was the kind of fellow you would like to have over to your house for a few laughs, or even a thoughtful, engaging conversation. He said things we would like to say, or say things we should have. His remarkable career leapt from the small screen to the big, from small roles to box office gold. Humor was his expertise, yet we readily saw the earnest side to his remarkable persona, well recognized by his many awards and accolades. Here was a man for many seasons.

Except. Except. We have learned Robins Williams was as deeply flawed as the rest of us. Like so many of the comedic genre, he was fraught by the darkness of despair, compounded by the challenge of avoiding the addiction of alcohol and illicit drugs. He could not find his way out of the pit of this condition. He did not know, or at least recognize, the great affection millions held for him. So, alone, with his wife in the next room, he quietly took his own life. The Coroner said he hung himself.

The majority of we humans cannot understand this particular act of suicide, or any other, for that matter. We believe there is so much to live for. In the hearing, we may explore the question of what we could have done to prevent the act. For, in and of itself, this is a measure of how we value our lives and how we maintain that value. Today, there are nearly 40,000 completed suicides, annually, in the United States. As a result of the terrible, public, act of Robin Williams, calls have risen to the National Suicide Prevention Hotline by 200 percent. Some may follow his lead, God forbid.

This is the true legacy of suicide, as family and friends begin to question their emotional stability. It is not unusual for generations to be impacted by the act of one person. A son, or daughter, will carry the heavy burden of the voluntary, premature death of a parent, for their entire lives and leave this option open, should things get “too tough.” They may even pass along this dark legacy to other generations.

Soon, after the memorials recognizing the contributions of Robin Williams’ life, we shall quickly end our mourning. Perhaps we shall say a prayer for his soul. We may spend some time wondering what other gems of his creative genius have been missed, by his death. We can only speculate, for the body of his work is now complete.

Robin William’s biography will always have an asterisk (*) at the end of it: “He could not find a way out of the darkness of despair, so he took his own life.” We do not know what led him to this decision. We do not know what previous activities would have given warning signs, so his family and friends might have intervened. There may have been none to be seen. What we do know is the loss. What we do know is the necessity of intervention whenever there is any sense of personal harm. Our memorial, to this gifted man, would be this intervention with others.

Thank you, Robin Williams for all you gave to us. May your family and friends find comfort. You will be sorely missed, yet there will always be an asterisk by your name.

By: Fr. Jonathan Filkins