“You’re only given a little spark of madness. You musn’t lose it.” ~ Robin Williams.

Just having spent a lovely afternoon out with my children, I came home, made snacks for them both, and filled a tall glass of ice with water and lime. And then I saw something on twitter that made my heart sink.

Just so completely shocked to just hear of Robin Williams death that I felt a strong urge to put pen to paper but that takes too long so that’s why I blog…

One of my first thoughts was  “But who’s going to make us laugh and cry like he did?”

No mockery please. To make people laugh, cry, shout in anger… to make people simply feel something at all…to be able to evoke emotions that connect us on a basic human element is no small feat.

And sadly, it seems far too often those among us most blessed with this unique talent are often the ones most haunted by demons that drive them to seek escape via addictions that more often than any of us would like, lead to death, intentional or not.

After Philip Seymour Hoffmans death, I read an article in which someone close to him remarked that in every movie, he gave so much to each role, that in doing so he lost a part of himself because of it. It was remarked that as talented as he was, he was his own worst critic, the master of self-loathing.

My love affair with Robin Williams began as a child when I first discovered Mork and Mindy. I think I drove everyone in my family nuts with the penchant for saying ” Nanu nanu” in greeting, instead of the more mundane hello.

However, I truly fell in love with his work as an actor when as a young woman about to graduate from high school- who wrote copious amounts of everything, including poetry-I saw Dead Poets Society.

I’d read the book, and already had emblazoned in my minds eyes how professor John Keating talked, walked etc, as each of us do who read profusely. I was thrilled with how Robin Williams portrayed the professor!  Ecstatic at his inspirational readings to a group of disenchanted young men, I leapt from the couch when he roused them all to higher aspirations and explorations of both great poets and passions alike. Carpe Diem, my lads, seize the day, live your passion!

To a young woman feeling out of place at the time for my love of all things literary in a northern forestry town, the movie was timely and his performance roused feelings in me that I’ve never lost. He was that good and my passion for reading, writing,exploring and feeling was set for life.

Good Will Hunting, Awakenings, The Fisher King… the list is so long and I have seen every single one,and I passed the love onto a new generation  via Jumanji, and Hook. When the youngest are old enough, perhaps I can persuade them to humour me long enough to experience the inspiration or degradation of the human spirit in all it’s movie greatness or sorrow with me.

Why do I love Robin Williams so much?

For that, I’ll take you back to Dead Poets Society,where in one of the best scenes in the movie Robin nails the essence of that admiration and respect for his talent in a performance that’s as clear today in my mind, as it was in 1989:

“We don’t read and write poetry because it’s cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion.

And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for.

To quote from Whitman, “O me! O life!… of the questions of these recurring; of the endless trains of the faithless… of cities filled with the foolish; what good amid these, O me, O life?”

Answer. That you are here – that life exists, and identity; that the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. That the powerful play *goes on* and you may contribute a verse.

What will your verse be?”

The rest as we say, is history.

Thank you Robin, it’s been a blast. May you find the peace of spirit that eluded you here on Earth. We’ll miss you.

Nanu.. nanu.




22 thoughts on ““You’re only given a little spark of madness. You musn’t lose it.” ~ Robin Williams.

  1. My heart is broken as well.. I have had a similar journey. His pain became bigger than him..in the moment he couldn’t see that it would pass. Depression does that. In the depth of it one sees no end. Robin was dually diagnosed – Addiction and Mental Illnesss. There is a LOT of Stigma around that..even in the rooms of 12 Step Programs among the uneducated. The worst though is the self stigma. It is impossible to explain/describe to another human who has not ‘been there;, I cried when PSH died and am so low now after the day of tears. I am glad that I haven’t seen any negative comments about his alcoholism. He was a VERY GOOD MAN who had an illness. 😥

  2. I first saw Robin on Mork and Mindy as well and greeted my friends with the Nanu Nanu in the Hallways ..in later years I watched his standup , and emulated his many characters and voices . I laughed my butt off in Good Morning Vietnam, was mesmerized in the The Dead Poets Society and wondered how he tackled the role of the Fisher King so effortlessly . He was truly a talented and funny man who helped shape my own wacky sense of humour and outlook on life . He will be missed and the world, my world, is not as happy it was this morning . R.I.P. Robin , you were an original , and above all , human.

  3. e.a.f.

    Quite frankly I don’t care. He was an entertainer. He was good at it, but the doctor who worked in the Ebola field, who died, was a bigger loose to the world. Robin Williams was well paid for what he did. His mental state was obviously not great, but then there are others who are in the same medical condition and when they kill themselves no one cares. We have bigger problems in the world right now than Robin Williams deciding to check out. It was a personal decision, which ought to be respected for what it was.

    1. Laila

      While I always welcome and respect your commentary eaf, I disagree strongly.

      Yes he was an entertainer,and for that I feel gratitude,for it is indeed the comics, the painters, photographers,actors and actresses who give us respite, escape, inspiration and perspective while dealing with the realities of our lives and our jobs.

      To me, that is as invaluable as the person who cures a disease,who risks his life to defend freedom, who exposes corruption,greed and wrong doing. Can you see through these eyes?

      Because I have found very few comics or actors who have given me as much laughter,happiness and escape as Robin Williams has. His loss is felt among many and cant be negated by saying
      “Well he was paid well and it was his choice.” How much anyone is paid has nothing to do with the value of their life to others as humans.

      Every life lost to suicide is a tragedy and a loss, whether to one, or to thousands.There is always someone left behind to mourn the loss of a life.

    2. Thank you Laila – for standing fairly for those who can’t. How awful for someone to compare like that. If someone had diabetes or cancer – there would be help and concern. You are a RESPECTED blogger because you are always FAIR – popular opinion or not. FACTS – not popularity. You will go FAR!!

  4. e.a.f
    Robin Williams was an incredible human being, who through his art and talent, helped many laugh and learn about being human as well as to love being human. He did this despite his mental health and addiction issues. Those are human failings and problems that many share. That he did so much while fighting such battles within himself is an inspiration.
    What I really take exception to in your comment though is the statement that “… then there are others who are in the same medical condition and when they kill themselves no one cares….”
    I and many others care deeply every time someone famous or not decides to kill themselves due to mental health and / or addiction issues. It is always a tragedy and there are lots of efforts being made to prevent it as much as possible. As my daughter says “Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.” A fire fighter at my work went that route and the church was packed with people who cared. Perhaps you do not care about those who kill themselves, but speak for yourself and yes the world has many problems, but losing good people like Robin Williams or anyone who suffers from mental health illness and addiction is one of them, that needs to be prevented.

    1. e.a.f.

      Yes, it can/might be prevented, however, given the sad lack of medical resources, many simply don’t get the chance to be helped. Society doesn’t really care that much at all except when its a “star” who decides to “end it all”. Many who comment on Robin Williams death will not put out the same effort/comments when the woman/guy down the street kills themselves, because they weren’t a well paid entertainer. That death will pass unnoticed, except for the close few.

      Entertainers are just that, entertainers. Now some may lift us temporarily from whatever state we are in, but really, when was the last time one found a cure for some deadly disease. In this world of celebrity, it is the celebrities who are admired, fawned over, and cried over whether they deserved it or not.

      Ms. Yuile, I understand what you are saying, but I simply disagree. I consider suicide a personal decision, which in many cases is a solution. Many think suicide is an answer for those facing a horrible death as the result of a disease. Not all terrible diseases are of the body. For some, it is in the mind.

      Some may think it is a “permanent solution to a temporary situation”, but really for some it is a solution. A church may be filled with those “who cared”, but no one has an obligation to go on living because their death would upset others. When someone has had enough of living with their depression and/or substance abuse, etc. and it is their decision to end it, that is their right. For some, they know they will never get better and living as they are, is not a viable option. Suicide, is not a condemnation on those who remain, although many take it to be that. Suicide, for some is simply a solution, when they have lived in despair long enough and no longer wish to. Think about it, 30/40/50 yrs. fighting substance abuse and depression…… for some, suicide is a solution. Robin Williams ended his life and may he now have peace.

  5. Mike

    Amen Laila.
    When I heard of his passing today, I took it has a hoax, not real, how could it be?
    As the day progressed and I determined it was true….. my heart sank under the weight of bricks.
    Like you, I grew up with Robin’s humor and watched in fascination as his career continued to grow.
    Everyone, good and bad knows deep inside themselves who those individuals were that resonated with them at a time in their life when it seemed like it would last forever.
    Forever is a long and a time none us truly ever understand.
    But we feel it forever.

  6. Red Skelton. Johnathan Winters. Robin Williams. Comic geniuses with dark auras of depression around their shoulders like black, heavy capes of grief and sadness. Robin’s downturned mouth was as clear a message of deep melancholy as his laughter was of comedy. You could see it. He was truly today’s contemporary crying clown.
    Depression is like that. It shows. It just does.
    This was not news to me. I saw it decades ago. It was just a matter of time. And I have the greatest respect for what he did with it in the time he had. I have the greatest respect for all who hold the leashes of the black dogs.

  7. Robin William touched more people and demonstrated a broader range of talents, but I’m reminded of the death by his own hand of another comedy giant: Tony Hancock.

    I won’t forget a line from The Blood Donor, first broadcast 53 years ago. Hancock’s character was a first time contributor who thought a smear was all they wanted. His response,
    “A pint? Have you gone raving mad? …I mean, I came here in all good faith, to help my country. I don’t mind giving a reasonable amount, but a pint? Why, that’s very nearly an armful!

    In years before his death, Hancock was a lonely and troubled man, known to have grown unreliable because of alcohol addiction . Williams also had substance abuse issues and, like Hancock, major depression. I don’t think it’s clear whether it is the cause or the result but depression often pairs with addiction.

    There’s been a long held conviction that, beneath the laughter, comics are unhappy souls but the evidence is unclear. What is known is that major depression and suicide go together more than occasionally.

    Each of us may not have personal friends who earn livings as comedians but there is a good chance we have friends who suffer depression. It is the latter fact that puts them at risk. If we pay attention, we might be able to help.

  8. You, too,have written a beautiful and meaningful statement on the genius and depth of Robin Wiliams’ tortured soul. He gave so much of himself that perhaps it isn’t surprising that he ran out of the ability to continue suffering! One of the nicest tributes I have seen said that he was as gentle a soul as he was funny. May he rest where he can continue explaining life for all of us to be soothed by? RIP, Robin

  9. Les

    Living with a recovering alcoholic suffering with depression my heart goes out to his family. The sadness of losing his genius must hit home hard.But sometimes rock bottom is death. There is no comfort in that but his torment is over .I wish for strength and love to his family and friends. Live ,love, laugh, seems the right wishes for Robin’s loved ones

  10. Les Foulds

    Laila isn’t it time for the Local Governments to assist the Police in reducing this crime. As a child in Coquitlam I was required to register and Licence my bike. With the serial # recorded any bike recovered could be returned to the owner. It also allowed Police to arrest thieves. The registration fee could also help pay for the many free roadways cyclist are enjoying at tax payers expence. I would be interested in your readers response to this Old idea?

  11. Thank for that tribute, Laila. I too have fond memories of Robin Williams’ unique talent. One of my favourite movies is “The Birdcage”, and although it was Nathan Lane that gave the over-the-top performance in that one, Robin’s talent still shone through. May he rest in peace.

  12. judi sommer

    A lovely tribute, Laila. Thank you. All too often with the gift of genious comes hidden demons. James Lipton, clearly shaken in an interview this morning said these folk give away a bit of themselves with each performance.As well, Robin brought a satiric view of Canada to the attention of the world with his hilarious rendition of Blame Canada the Emmy Awards.

  13. Debbie McBride

    Thanks for this Laila.. I lost an incredibly talented sister a few years ago to a drug overdose. She was beautiful, inside and out and a talented actress, musician, writer and artist. She wrote songs that are still played today. When she died we ere heartbroken but not surprised. She had an illness, that if it had been heart disease, no one would blame her and say she was selfish and weak. When people are so depressed and mentally I’ll, they don’t mean to punish anyone. They are overwhelmed with a need to stop the pain in their soul and all they want to do is end the pain.

    My sister Dawnlea was a beautiful and talented young woman who just couldn’t find the way out
    Of the pain and torment in her soul. I love her and miss her and am content to know her pain is gone. I’ll even bet she and all the artists in heaven are putting on a comedic musical and are at peace.

    Thanks Laila forgiving us a place to gently discuss and remember those who felt no other way out.


    1. Laila

      Hugs Debbie,thank you for sharing this with all of us. Reaching out is the first step – on both sides- to starting the hard conversations that need to happen.

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