2014-08-12 Never Goodbye, Only Catch Ya Later
I've only ever shed tears over the passing of a celebrity once in my life - Michael Jackson. I grew up listening to his beautiful music and had carried his artistry with me over the years. I remember exactly where I was when I first heard the news; I was a stand-in for the two lead actresses on the indie film Amazon Falls, and I had some down time while the crew was setting up the next shot. I got a text from a friend in disbelief about MJ, and I immediately began scouring the internet for credible confirmation. Indeed, it was true and I could hardly believe it. Strange how some people seem invincible.. Yesterday was the second time I've shed tears for a fallen artist, and I'm intensely devastated and heartbroken over the death of Robin Williams.
I hadn't gone on the internet much that day, as I had decided early on that I was going to make the most of the gleaming sunshine. I found out later on in the evening as my coworker had mentioned it in passing - I was immediately stunned, I could hardly even string a sentence together. My first thought was Patch Adams. The second was a still frame portrait of his warm eyes and kind, boyish grin. Next was a wacky, over-the-top improvisational moment, followed by him in an ebullient state, mid-fit of laughter. Classic Robin Williams. Mrs. Doubtfire, Jumanji, The Birdcage, Hook, Bicentennial Man, Aladdin.. The beloved works go on. It is utterly melancholic to think that what was going be a lovely day for me, was the very last that Robin could bear.
A peeve of mine is when people make snide remarks about how we care too much about 'celebrity' deaths and not enough about, for example, the people dying because of the Gaza conflict, or the starving children in Third World countries, or the wounded soldiers fighting abroad to give us the privilege of living our lives freely. I suppose in this moment I can only speak for myself, but I certainly do think of these things, and often. I read articles, I talk to people, I watch the news. However, it's near paralyzing to be knee-deep in so much incessant hardship, so I don't submerge myself in it, but I do my best to be aware. True, many of my personal public tributes are for well-known figures in the entertainment industry, and that's because they are members of my interested field of creativity, and they have directly affected my life and resonated with me deeply through their work. Just because I write a post honouring an actor, doesn't mean that I've suddenly forgotten about the oil sands that are devastating wildlife habitats and the earth as a whole, or that I don't care about the missing young girls in Nigeria. Every day, I am aware of and thankful for the wonderful life I'm able to lead, but it's not every day that I think about the gift of laughter from my favourite actor, or the several amazing albums put out by my favourite bands that got me through hard times, or the amazing novelists who gave me fantastic dreamland escapes in my youth through their imaginative stories. It doesn't matter how well known a celebrity is, they're still human beings, friends, partners, siblings, parents who deserve to be recognized and appreciated.
Even though we don't truly know our favourite artists as people, and though we may never even meet them, we feel like we have some thread of a connection to them as an audience because they've touched our individual lives on a cellular level - more than the artist could ever begin to know. In their chosen mediums, the artist's portrayal of story in film, through music, and on paper make us feel that we're not alone on this vibrant earth; it's that magical experience that inspires us to keep going, to dream big, to trust that things will always work out. They give us the gift of deeper understanding and invoke an appreciation for the little things that we otherwise would have glossed over.
That's why we pay homage to the artist, because, in some way, they became our friend.
What makes this even more painful is that Robin suffered from Depression so badly that he committed suicide. This really affects me. I've heard of a few comedians who opened up publicly about their own depression, paradoxical as it may seem, but the more I think about it, what a great weight it must be for them to try and heal the world of its distress through laughter while not being able to alleviate their own suffering.. but when it gets to the point that a person walks to the edge, and takes their last step - how long had they been teetering for? I had a sweet, adventurous friend who took her own life late last year, which brought the severe issue of mental illness directly into my sphere. You're left with all of these impossible scenarios of 'why' and if there was anything anyone could have done. In a way, the person becomes free from trying to survive this life (really that's what we're all doing, at the very core) but they leave a heavy mark on those close to them. They didn't give up, they just couldn't fight any longer. Like a soldier in battle - the battle won, but we continue to crusade in their name because tragically they could not continue any longer. So, I'll keep on keepin' on for Erin, and I'll keep on keepin' on for Robin.
"We never expect to hear about death. We never wake up knowing someone will have died today. As we busy ourselves with all of the lovely distraction that life offers us... we push death away... like some unwanted vegetable on the dinner plate. But every once in a while, death enters our periphery and reminds us that it's still there. Not to scare us... not to terrorize us... only to remind us to cherish each bite of the meal put before us. Like it or not we will be made to eat our vegetables. My deepest gratitude for the man who reminded us to play with our food. Au revoir, Robin Williams." - Shane Koyczan