Today on our way to swimming lessons, my oldest granddaughter said, “Grammy, the man who was Genii [in Aladdin] died. Was it age, or was he sick?” As I tried to explain that he had a disease called depression that made him so terribly sad that he killed himself, she was shocked and horrified. “How could anybody be that sad, Grammy?” she asked.
I don’t think my answer helped her very much. Trying to describe such overwhelming sadness and despair to a bright and shiny eight-year-old was very hard. The fact that I couldn’t just wrap her in cotton balls and protect her from needing to know such things was even harder. I told her that I hoped neither she nor her little sister would ever have anything make them feel so sad that they thought they could no longer live. She said, “Believe me, I know that killing myself would never be easier than living. Killing myself would be way too hard.”
She then went on to explain, “If I’m feeling really sad, I’ll just tell myself that I need to be happy, and I will change the way I feel.” My fervent wish tonight is that we would all always have that ability to keep ourselves happy, so that no more lives are wasted by this insidious disease.
And I hope that twenty years from now when we look back in fond memory at Robin Williams, we will see that his life made us crazy happy in so many ways, and his death helped us rebuild our mental health systems in this country, and saved the lives of countless other gentle souls. RIP, precious man.