Part of getting old is realizing that the world keeps moving at increasingly dizzying speeds. I, for one, measure the flow of time in what changes I observe around me, rather than the more predictable changes that operate within me. Watching my son grow is certainly a good way to gauge how time passes, especially because he has become that bridge between the world I have known and the world that is become.
Undeniably, realizing one’s own aging will be connected (to a smaller or a larger extent: that lies in the eye of the beholder) to the fact that others who are older than us are getting older, too, and eventually die. As predictable and certain as death may be, it is the when that is mostly surprising and unsettling. And death is the least discriminating entity of all, perhaps even less than God Himself, for righteousness is no cure.
I have been blessed with a rather longevous family. This year, my paternal grandfather died at the ripe age of ninety-seven. And my family celebrated the joy of my maternal grandfather’s ninety-third birthday in August. That same day, Robin Williams died.
Death is always there and has always been there, like a Parca, not impatient, not eager, just there. It is a mysterious constant, unmotivated, just there. It plagues the dreams of mortal men, and has been the subject of art, literature, science and so on – forever. I have also written on death before. And it affects us at many levels, some more than others. First and foremost is your family (with the controversial topic of pets as members of your family). Celebrities… well… unless you have had a personal relationship with them, you feel for their family, and move on.
I had two symbolic mentors. And they are both dead now.
I wanted to become an opera singer and chose Mr. Luciano Pavarotti as my mentor. I had the pleasure of attending two of his recitals in my lifetime, and have listened to countless hours of his work, even the most obscure. Inspired by him, I did become a performer of some sort.
And then there was Robin Williams, a man who inspired me to become a voice artist, but most of all, a father. Over the years, I made sure to follow what was going on in his life, while I watched his appearances on television (and thanks to YouTube that is now more possible than ever), his performances in the theater, even that “Behind the Camera” movie about him, and, of course, his movies. There are many common threads in his work (talk about typecasting), the two most common of which, the way I see it, are fatherhood and suicide.
It’s been a month already, and I still can’t seem to wrap my mind around it. It was not just a “celebrity” who died. It was a role model, a person I actually wanted to become. But let me round up my rant before it gets any longer. Robin Williams, as far as we know, couldn’t bear the uncertainty of the visit of Sister Death and went to meet her at his own accord.
Robin Williams was an alien. He was one of those rapid-burst souls like Mozart or Schubert or Keats whose life was lived so intensely it ended early. I admit they were much younger, but 60 is the new 40, isn’t it? Robin Williams lived like an alien and touched our hearts and souls in ways we still cannot fathom. Thinking of his death, “The Little Prince” always comes to mind, although he chose a snake as a means to return to his home planet.
My two spiritual mentors are gone. I don’t know any other of the so-called “celebrities” anymore whose death would move me so deeply as theirs. Coincidentally (and Carl Jung would disagree), they both died while I was in Slovenia. I’m afraid to go back there again…
If you need help, visit the International Association for Suicide Prevention.