Hearing about the death of a celebrity is an odd, sometimes crippling feeling. Sure, we might not know them, but we know them. In the case of Robin Williams, they might even be a large part of our life.
He was for me. I didn’t even realize it until yesterday when I heard of his passing. Williams may not be my favorite actor, but he always seemed to be “there.” As a kid, I remember watching and re-watching a VHS copy of Hook. Despite the film’s flaws, there’s a magical quality to it. Williams and Spielberg filled my dreams with worlds where flying was possible and the imagination knew no bounds.
There were also reruns of Mork & Mindy. And, who can forget, Aladdin and Jumanji. As I grew older, I learned to appreciate Williams’ more mature films like Good Will Hunting and Dead Poets Society. How many days of my life went by without coming into contact, in some shape or form, with Robin Williams?
When I heard he died, I couldn’t help but feel sad. It sounds weird, doesn’t it? Just typing that out seems a bit odd. He was a celebrity. Grieving over a celebrity has a superficial air to it—especially against the backdrop of our tragic world.
Yet, Williams was more than a “celebrity” label, he was a person. A person we let into our lives for a time. A person who helped us explore our imaginations. A person who made us laugh when life didn’t want us to. A person who helped us learn to fly like Peter Pan. He’s also a person who matters to God.
It’s okay to be sad about Robin Williams. We, especially those of us who follow Jesus, don’t have to feel guilty when it hurts to say goodbye to an entertainer. We don’t have to feel bad when we’re melancholy over one man. The one matters. He matters to God (Luke 15:1-17) and his struggle with depression should matter to us too. That’s why we’re sad for you Mr. Williams. That’s why we wish that your life, your career, and your legacy didn’t have to end like this.
Sure, we can’t over exaggerate this grief, making it seem somehow more tragic than the death of so many others around the world. We can’t forget about the countless individuals who struggle with suicide, mental disease, and oppression everyday. But we can still be sad, just as long as we keep a clear perspective.
I grieve when I see what’s happening in Israel. I cry when I hear the news from Iraq.
I’m also a little sad that Robin Williams died. We might have loved him for Hook, Dead Poets Society, Mrs. Doubtfire, and the way he couldn’t be contained when he sat down with Conan O’Brien.
But God. Well, he just loved him because he was Robin Williams.