O captain, my captain!

My mother has always cried when a celebrity she liked died, and I always thought it was sort of silly to cry over someone you don’t actually know. (Except when George Harrison died. And even then, her weeks of mourning seemed like overkill.)
But the death of Robin Williams hit me really, really hard yesterday.

Someone wrote that he was a father figure to our generation, and I said “yes” out loud when I read that. I grew up watching Robin Williams. Sometimes he was manic. Sometimes he was calm. Sometimes he was animated. Sometimes he was inspiring. That one time he was a she.

As I read others’ words on his life and his passing, I took an inventory of his roles that meant the most to me personally. I remembered when he made me laugh as the genie in Aladdin, as Mrs. Doubtfire, as Batty in Ferngully. I remembered watching Good Morning Vietnam and his stand-up with my dad, who beamed when I said he reminded me of him. I remembered loving him as a full grown Peter Pan. I remembered Good Will Hunting and how good he was at delivering words of wisdom.

My sister updated her Facebook status to “O captain, my captain,” and I just lost it.

I’ve long attributed my optimism and hope to movies and books, and I think I will always have a deeply rooted affection for any piece of fiction that contributed to that cause when I needed it the most. Dead Poets Society was one of those movies for me. I watched it I don’t even know how many times in the midst of the worst of it with my parents. And I let Mr. Keating’s words sink in and resonate.

I didn’t actually know Robin Williams, but I feel like I did. And I find it ironic that someone who brought so much joy to so many suffered from depression. It breaks my heart into pieces to think that he was ever sad or felt alone. It goes to show that we never really know what is going on inside the minds and lives of others. All we can do is hope that if nothing else, he knew on some level how beloved he truly was.

So beloved that a twenty-something who rolls her eyes when others cry over the death of celebrities, who acknowledges that feeling so inconsolably and inexplicably sad because she didn’t even actually know him, was rendered a weeping mess over his passing.

No, Mr. Williams. Thank you.

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