O Captain, My Captain

I’ve been sitting at my desk for almost an hour now, trying to convince myself that it’s not frivolous or silly to want to write a blog post about the passing of a person I never met when we’re living in a world where thousands of innocent people are dying, unnaturally, every single day. I want to believe that it’s important to remember people who had a huge impact on our lives, even if it wasn’t a personal connection, and to mourn them when we lose them. One thing I know for sure is this: I’ve been sitting here for a long time now, simply weeping, and even though this blog post may be nothing more than an example of how it’s a bad idea to write a blog post when you’re upset, I’m going to go with the only thing on my mind right now.

Robin Williams. He can’t be gone. I simply won’t believe it.

Image: chicagoreader.com

Image: chicagoreader.com

I grew up with Robin Williams’ work. Mork and Mindy made me laugh as a tiny child, Mrs Doubtfire made me wail with laughter as a teenager, and the magisterial Dead Poets’ Society broke my heart and healed it again repeatedly as I grew into an adult. For a long time, it was my favourite film, and it still holds a warm place in my ‘all time greats’ pantheon. Watching the tributes to this awesomely talented man pour in on Twitter this morning reminded me just how many brilliant films he made, and how many parts became his own – he was the voice of Aladdin’s Genie. He played a hilarious cameo role in Friends. He was Patch Adams. He was electrifying in The Fisher King, and compelling in Good Will Hunting. He was Garp, one of my literary heroes, in the underrated classic The World According to Garp. It’s only now I think about it that I realise how much his voice and image contributed to my life, and the lives of so many others.

The fact that he has left us suddenly, and tragically, is hard to bear. If it is hard to bear for his legions of fans, I dread to think how devastating it is to his wife and family, and my thoughts are with them.

And yes, I know there is a humanitarian crisis in Iraq, and in Syria, and in Gaza. I know there are wars everywhere we care to look. I know that women, children and men are being brutalised all over the world, and that the death of one more human being hardly matters in the grand river of destruction which we have created.

But this death does matter. They all matter. Every single life – they all matter. If I were to cry about all of them, I’d never be done crying, so I will cry for Robin Williams. I will cry for the beauty he brought to my life, for all the laughs, for the times I was stopped in my tracks by his talent, whether it was his comedy or simply his acting ability. I will cry that there will never be another film from him. I will cry for his family, and for all who loved him. I will cry for myself, because part of what made my childhood so magical is lost now, forever. I will cry because the tiny glimmer of hope he shone on the world has been extinguished.

And then, I’ll dry my tears and try to remember to make someone laugh today. I’ll try to remember the power of laughter, and how it bridges even the most unbridgeable of gaps, bringing together people who seem to have no common ground. I’ll try to remember to ask others whether I can help if I think they’re going through a bad time, and I’ll try to remember to ask for help if I’m going through a bad time, and I’ll try to remember that there is no shame in asking for help.

And it will all be for you, Robin Williams.

Image: thewrap.com

Image: thewrap.com

If you have been affected by the death of Robin Williams, or if you need help dealing with feelings of depression or suicidal impulses, please know that there is so much help out there. Click here for a link to a list of international suicide crisis helplines, or see http://samaritans,org or http://pieta.ie. Please reach out to someone if you’re finding things difficult, and don’t feel you have to deal with your feelings alone – there are so many people who will help you, and there is no shame in asking for help.

13 thoughts on “O Captain, My Captain

  1. Toirdealbhach Ó Lionáird

    Well said Sinéad and thanks for providing the information at the end. He’ll be missed and especially by those closest to him. He had such an ability to bring the viewer to the dizzy double edge between laughter and crying.
    “Exult, O shores, and ring, O bells!
    But I, with mournful tread,
    Walk the deck my captain lies,
    Fallen cold and dead.” RIP

    Reply
  2. Toirdealbhach Ó Lionáird

    Reblogged this on tea and a peach and commented:
    Well said Sinéad and thanks for providing the information at the end. He’ll be missed and especially by those closest to him. He had such an ability to bring the viewer to the dizzy double edge between laughter and crying.
    “Exult, O shores, and ring, O bells!
    But I, with mournful tread,
    Walk the deck my captain lies,
    Fallen cold and dead.” RIP

    Reply
    1. SJ O'Hart Post author

      One of the greats, absolutely, and a man who seemed to touch everyone, no matter who they were. Such broad appeal and such humanity. You’re right: depression is a terrible affliction, but it’s so very common and we need to be less afraid to say ‘this is my reality – will you help me?’ or ‘I want to help you through your tough times.’ I have struggled myself, for years, and only the love and support of others has got me through, at times.

      Thanks so much for your comment, and for reading.

      Reply
  3. pratibha

    Hi Sinéad, in spite of your upset state, you have written a timely, beautiful, and balanced tribute. I am thinking of reblogging this.

    Reply
  4. pratibha

    Reblogged this on Travails of the Wayward Writer and commented:
    The world lost a spark of madness yesterday. I have no words to describe the loss, but my friend and the wonderful writer Sinéad — a grieving fan of Robin Williams– has written a timely, beautiful, and balanced tribute.

    Reply
  5. Maurice A. Barry

    That’s a lovely tribute. I would like to share with you something I came across on reddit.com just this morning. Here it is, more or less: A man goes to see a doctor, who asks, “what is the trouble? The man says, “I’m depressed. I can’t sleep, I can’t eat. I feel down and irritable most days. I just can’t feel happy.'”
    The Doctor says, “In town tonight is the great clown Canio. He’s hysterically funny and will make you laugh til you cry. You will experience a joy unprecedented.”
    The man bursts into tears. The doctor, confused, asks why. “Doctor, I am Canio.”
    (the joke is based on the opera

    Reply
    1. SJ O'Hart Post author

      Hi Maurice – thanks for your comment. Thanks also for sharing the reddit post. I don’t know if you’ve ever read the graphic novel ‘Watchmen’ or seen the (excellent) movie adaptation of same, but one of the characters in that story – my favourite, incidentally – named Rorschach tells that anecdote, too, except he changes the name of the clown to Pagliacci. Whoever said it first, it’s a very wise tale. The tears of a clown, and all that. I will miss Robin Williams so much.

      I hope you enjoyed your holiday, and that you’re now home again, safe and sound. 🙂

      Reply

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