The tragic loss of Robin Williams is echoing everywhere. It fills Facebook and Twitter feeds. It is the topic of blogs and news stories. It’s not only his enormous talent, larger than life personality and his incredible imprint in entertainment but his battle with depression that resonates with people around the world.
Depression and suicide are ugly. The words, the illness, the action evoke different reactions in each person. And the emotion that accompanies the reaction is not something people like to feel. Today there are many posts, articles, and news stories educating the public on depression and suicide. This is very important information. I’m not writing about that. If you have read anything I’ve written, you know that my focus is always from the human side. And that’s where I’m writing from today.
Last year I lost someone to suicide. He was not a close friend. Brian was someone I had known for years and with whom I had a friendly acquaintance. He was one of my children’s former teachers and we had formed a casual friendship when I was his room mom. Having a gifted child can be challenging. Teachers don’t always know what to do with these “out of the box” kids. He did. He was innovative with technology at a time when it was just showing up in classrooms and he used it to challenge and motivate his students. He was one of my son’s favorite teachers.
Brian was a great guy. I stopped in to see him every time I was at the school. He was always excited to hear about my son’s latest news. He would share his latest family news and his own personal accomplishments as well as all the really cool things he was doing in the classroom. He was energetic, friendly, smiling.
The last time I saw him was just a few short months before he committed suicide. When I walked into his classroom, he excitedly brought me over to his computer. “You’ve got to see what I found the other day!” He was like a kid who had just gotten a new video game. He quickly pulled up a video that my son had made as a project all those year ago. It was a commercial for a made up product. My son is still close friends with the student who was his partner on this assignment. He insisted that I keep in touch.
News of his death and the details surrounding it rocked our community. For what seemed like the longest time there wasn’t a place I went where people were not talking about him. On a much closer level both former and present students, parents, co-workers, family and friends were reeling. His loss was felt deeply by everyone who knew him.
There was talk of doing something to memorialize him. He had accomplished so much in his short time here with us. He was inspiring and well liked and he deserved to be remembered.
Except there were people who felt that in giving him a remembrance we would be glorifying suicide. Making him to a tragic hero. Throughout the conversation it felt as if people had lost sight of the purpose. And they lost sight of Brian. (The truth of the matter is that I don’t need a physical object to remember him. His memory lives in the classroom where he taught, the students he left his mark on and all of the people whose lives he touched. I miss him.)
During this time when people are sorting out their shock, anger, and sadness over the death of Robin Williams, let’s try to remember the person. Like Brian, he did incredible things and he deserves to be remembered for those things.