R.I.P., Robin Williams.

Okay, so I’m not normally overcome by emotional moments easily. I’m much more likely to stop, analyze, contemplate, breathe, and evaluate my reactions… I process.  (And I often write about things as a way of processing them.)  So I’m a bit perplexed, honestly, by how much the death of Robin Williams has affected me, emotionally, in the past 24 hours.

I swear, it’s like a part of my youth has just been ripped away.

What’s adding fuel to the emotional roller coaster that I’ve been on last night and today is that everyone is grieving, it seems. Facebook is flooded with status updates and news stories about it. Friends are talking about it. It’s everywhere; we’re all experiencing it, and very publicly at that. So what might otherwise be a moment of sad reflection is instead being rehashed over and over again, seemingly impossible to escape.

What really bothers me, though, is the heartless reaction that some people have had.  Fox News actor Shep Smith notably referred to “something inside you so horrible – or you’re such a coward, whatever the reason – that you have to end it.” And yes, he later apologized, convincingly in my opinion. But still, the idea of speculating aloud like that, a few hours after a beloved man’s death, is appalling to me. (Conan O’Brien handled the news much more appropriately, as you might expect.)

And look, I get it that suicide is a tough thing to process. It’s hard to know how to feel, or what to think. For the past few years, I’ve often euphemistically referred to my sister’s death as “sudden and unexpected”, but the harsh truth is that she killed herself. And I had my angry moments, and a single but powerful sobbing wreck moment. I understand the questioning, the bafflement, the wailing and the railing. But man, don’t go on national television and say hateful things about a cherished cultural icon, certainly not while the people the world over (not to mention his wife and children) are grieving.

I’ll close with a story that I read, in a series of late-night tweets by comedian Norm Macdonald, about an encounter that he had with Robin Williams years ago. I started laughing out loud halfway through it, and I was crying by the end. Crying, both from laughing so hard, and from grief. Think me a drama queen if you must, but this really got to me.  Check it out, consolidated below:

It was my first stand-up appearance on Letterman and I had to follow the funniest man in the world. I was a punk kid from rural Ontario and I was in my dressing room, terrified. I was on the phone to a friend back home when the funniest man in the world ambled by. There was no one else on the floor. In shock, I told my friend who just walked by. Only the funniest man in the world. I guess he heard me say his name, cause in an instant he was at my side. He was a jewish tailor, taking my measurements. He went down on his knees, asked which way I dressed. I told my friend on the phone that the funniest man in the world was on his knees before me, measuring my inseam. My friend didn’t believe me so I said, “Could you talk to my friend, sir.”

The funniest man in the world took the phone and for ten minutes took my friend’s chinese food order. I laughed and laughed and it was like I was in a dream because no one else was there. No one. The place was out of Moo Shoo Pork, and there was nothing he could do about it.  He angrily hung up on my friend and I was about to thank him when he said I hadn’t even tried the jacket on.

Then the funniest man on earth dressed me, a complete stranger, and i remember he ended with a windsor knot. He spoke mostly yiddish, but when he finished he was happy with his job and turned me to a mirror to present myself to me. No one witnessed any of this. No one. The funniest man alive was in my dressing room a good half-hour and was far funnier than the set I had to do soon. ll of a sudden it was, had to.

When he left my dressing room, I felt alone. As alone as I ever remember feeling. Until today. Unacceptable. #RIPRobinWilliams

O’ Captain, my Captain.

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