Usually, saying funny things is second nature to me, but not today. I have taken the death of Robin Williams pretty hard. My friend Laine posted this on Facebook and I think her sentiments are perfect. “I feel like I have lost a family member”. When famous people die, I think we all think about what they have added to the world and feel sorry for their families. But for me, this has been a tough year.
When Maya Angelou passed away, I was saddened because I really love her. She gave me so much through her writing. I took comfort in the fact that she lived a long, rich life and worked until her body just gave out. To me she is one of the greatest philosophers of all time. I quote her often and find constant strength in her words.
She is sitting on my shoulder when I write. I am in no way comparing what I write to what Maya has written... that would be like comparing Shakespeare to the guy who writes blurbs for inside fortune cookies. But she set me free a long time ago, to say what was on my mind, to be proud to be a woman with a voice, and to be kind. She also didn’t trust people who didn’t know how to laugh. But the best thing about Maya was the insightful way she viewed life. She gave the world so much. She gave me unmeasurable amounts of wisdom that are now a part of who I am.
“People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel”. “I’ve learned that you can tell a lot about a person by the way he/she handles 3 things. A rainy day, lost luggage and tangled Christmas tree lights.” - MAYA ANGELOU
Losing James Garner last month had a different kind of sadness for me. My daddy loved him. Watching the Rockford Files as a family was a big deal. My dad always said that James Garner was a man’s man and my dad was one too, so he would know. For anyone who saw his last acclaimed piece of work, The Notebook, Garner’s portrayal of a man in love with his ailing Alzheimer’s stricken wife was heart wrenching and beautiful. If you didn’t know, James Garner was married to the same woman for 58 years in real life. He also marched with Martin Luther King in the Jobs and Freedom March in 1963, when his acting career was in full swing and he had a lot to lose. And if you aren’t convinced that he cared about his country and its people, James Garner fought on the front lines in Korea, was wounded twice and was awarded two Purple Hearts. A man’s man and a woman’s man all rolled into one. His passing made me miss my father so much more.
And now Robin Williams is gone. From the very first time I saw him on Happy Days, I was in love. His wack-a-doo quirkiness as Mork was intoxicating. Robin was an incredibly funny stand-up comedian, but he gave something to acting that it had never seen before. Because Robin was such a genius ad libber, his prepared dialogue in his movie scripts was often abandoned because what came out of his mind and then his mouth was so much better. Brilliant doesn’t even begin to describe this man. He was a giver. He was one of the brains behind Comic Relief. The out pouring of love and heartfelt sentiments from the world prove what he meant to so many of us.
I was lucky enough to see him perform twice. About 20 years ago I was at the Improv in Hollywood and he stopped by to do an impromptu set. He was hilarious and adorable. But the best was when I went out to wait for my car at the valet; he was waiting, too. There were a dozen people there so I didn’t have to worry about making conversation, but it was exciting to be so close to someone I idolized. The second time was when I saw him perform live at a fundraiser a few years ago. He was on stage for over an hour and my face hurt from laughing for days afterwards. It was fabulous. From what I know, people always depended on him to help raise money for worthy causes.
It is hard not to think about how he left this world. He wasn’t almost 90 like Maya and James. He was in tremendous pain, emotionally. I have no idea what depression feels like, but I know what it looks like. I have a daughter who suffers every day from either being depressed, anxious or not liking the feeling of being on mood elevating drugs. She is working hard to overcome it, but it is extremely hard. She was the one I heard from first when the news of Robin was announced.
It is my hope that in his death, there will be a new awareness and understanding from people who don’t comprehend how overpowering the sadness can be for the people who struggle with mental illness. I hope great strides are made in his name and in his memory. For now, I am clinging to remembering him for being a comedic genius, stellar actor and unselfish humanitarian. I don’t have to say much because the tributes to him as a talent and a man are pouring in from all over the world.
Forgive me for not being funny today. I am just not feeling it. If you are still reading, thank you for sticking this out with me. I am going to Las Vegas on a buying trip. The big garment shows are there next week. When I come back, I shall be filled with humorous tales about Sin City. It’s the greatest people watching place in the world. And, lucky me, I get to go to a trade show on my birthday. I guess there is an age when your birthday is not a big deal, but I haven’t reached it yet. Have a great week.