Remember the Person

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.


22 thoughts on “Remember the Person

  1. IMO I always it’s the at-risk groups who seem to get all the attention because they for the “mold” with whom we expect as most “at-risk”. Depression and anxiety, neither discriminate. Usually it’s the kid who gets bullied or has a troublesome home life, but does so well in school, but no one otherwise notices. It’s the gay kid who doesn’t fit the effeminate stereotype, but fears that being outed will cost him everything, even more so than the out and proud kid. It’s the straight A student who fears that anything less than that perfect A and college resume will cost her dearly. It can be the trust fund baby—we think they might have it all, doesn’t have to work for their family wealth, but actually has to when he don’t even see it. They are the ones who fall through the cracks, and have the highest “success” rates at depression. An upper-class, straight A white male will more likely follow through on suicide, then a poor girl from the ghetto, because no suspects him of suffering.

    But realize too, not all cases of depression lead to or even have anything to do with suicide. It happened to me when I was you had, but now I don’t even bother with such a thing.


    1. You raise a very good point. I think people will analyze it to death in an attempt to understand or make it fit into what their impression is. That’s the case with so many things- as you know.


      1. It’s going to be like after the Newtown shooting. We’re all going to talk about it for a while, but nothing will hangs, and it will all be preaching to the choir kind of stuff. Nothing in policy will get changed, doubt public perception of it will change.


      2. Charlie, that’s a really good idea. When I’m not on my iPad, I’m going to check it out and think about what I can do. Thanks for pointing it out to me.


  2. Some find it so hard to separate the person from the act. For many, the act becomes the person and vice versa.

    Thank for you for reminding us that he was more than what he did that day. Much more.


    Liked by 2 people

    1. The days and weeks after we lost Brian were filled with countless conversations with what he had done. He left behind a wife and small children. The fathers that I’m friends with were so angry at him. The mothers were heartbroken for his kids and his wife. People had a difficult time accepting that Brian was more than his end. In addition to being a loving, kind, friendly man, he was just human and he had been suffering for a long time.


      1. Odds are that he was a hero…for years…to make it as long as he did.

        Odds are that he thought about it constantly, felt it drumming on his head and kicking in his heart and tearing at his guts for an eternity of todays.

        You can be sure that he set aside the pain, pushed away the grief and held that thing that I wrote about yesterday at bay even during the times you were talking with him, behind the smile, behind the laugh.

        The true tragedy? That the very thing that drove him to take his own life (the notion that the world would be a better place without him) he ended up messing up too. There is no doubt in my mind that he thought his family would be better with him gone, that they would adjust and actually finally be glad to be released from (his perception) the horror of him…and yet, somewhere, somehow I think, it is given for him to see the sorrow, the pain and anguish, the daily torment that his family and close friends go thru…

        …and I think that he deeply regrets it, and wishes he could come back and give it another go.

        It simply is not possible to convey the feeling of depression…or the depth of the fight…or its awful, monstrous patience, crouched there, stomach growling in hunger and crooning its cobra-death melodies.

        Never assume…just never assume. Be nosey! Even if it is 3 times a day…intrude! And then smile sheepishly, say the litany (“I just want to be sure you know I love you and care, and am so happy you are here with me”), and relish your role as a gadfly of eternity who buzzes between that monster death and its prey.


      2. Yes, I agree. I had so many conversations- all with men- who couldn’t come to terms with this. He left his wife an extremely long letter. He spent the evening before working on his resume to try for a higher position (which he probably would have gotten). And he was determined to not survive- there was no possible way anyone could mistake his leaving for a cry for help.

        I know he had to be suffering greatly and it breaks my heart still today to think about that.

        And now I’m going to text a friend who needs to know she is loved.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. I remember how it felt after my uncle took his own life. There was a silencing deep within me. I wanted to be angry, but I couldn’t. I wanted to blame, but I couldn’t. I wanted to scream, but I couldn’t.

        The only thing I could think was how terrifying it must have been to be in That Place and to “make” That decision.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. What SHE said!! Thank you Kat…as I harp on all the time, just simplify and love, be kind, forgive, show mercy, and throw grace around like the trees in your yard throw leaves in the fall!!
    Charissa Grace


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