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I hurt myself today, to see if I still feel. 

I focus on the pain, the only thing that’s real. – NIN


I didn’t know him and I don’t know how he felt.

I don’t know if he was disappointed, if he was sad, if he laid awake at night reliving mistakes from sixty-three years of life. If the effort it took for him to smile became so overwhelmingly large that it was easier to just, not.

I don’t know if he felt anything at all, or if life was a deafening and hollow emptiness.

But, whatever demons drove Peter Pan and Patch Adams, the Genie and Oh Captain, my Captain, to scribble down the final page of his story by his own hand…it hurts my heart.

I was driving home from a shoot last night when I heard of his passing, and it squeezed my heart unlike other celebrity deaths. It struck fear in me.

More than anything creative and hysterical and famous, he was a father and a husband and, once upon a time, he was someone’s little boy.

Living here in our relatively sheltered existence, where we have solid support systems, good friends, a healthy church community and family nearby, I don’t typically have anxiety over my children growing up and becoming raging cocaine addicts. I don’t worry (much) that they’ll be doing heroin or dying of an overdose.

Of course, I know that anything is possible, and I know that addictions are part of my family heritage. But still. There are fears, like these, that I can choose to put on a shelf as irrational, if only for this moment in my life.

But this, this darkness that can settle into the still and silent crevasses of their hearts and take up space. This hurt that can tell them lies about their worth, or perhaps worse, say nothing at all, but instead steal the joys of life and bury them deep, deep, beyond where they can feel.

The nothingness that makes life empty.

This is the stuff of my nightmares. It’s fighting a battle against a shadow. It’s swinging and missing and not ever truly understanding why they can’t just fight for themselves.

There are places this morning, in neighborhood, in my extended family, maybe even in my own home, where hurt is lurking. There are places where the nothingness is lying in wait.

Rather than feel helpless, we pray. We plead that darkness won’t win, that our loved ones will always see themselves as they are – loved, valued, important and unique.

And on the days when the shadows seem to win, we fix our eyes on every bit of light that was eked out of the life left behind. Because, goodness matters. Because the life lived and lost, matters.

Thankfully, in the case of Robin Williams, there is so much light, I have to wonder if darkness can really claim a victory at all in his passing. Yes, it’s a tragic and heavy-hearted loss, even for just a casual fan, like myself.

But, he left so much good in his wake, the light reflecting off the water is blinding.

Rest in peace.

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