I’m sure you all have heard about our American Comedic Legend – Mr. Robin Williams and his passing yesterday. I can only begin to imagine what his family and closest relatives are feeling given the outpour of sympathy from the rest of the world. I am amazed but not surprised at the unsurpassable amount of people affected by this tragic event; even still, simply writing this gets me all choked up. Last night I got lost reading about stories from people all over the world that he made an impact on in some way. The people that he touched and the lives that he changed, everyone has their own story, each with a unique tale of how he made them smile or stop and think about the world.
It seems though, that there are a lot of people out there asking themselves, “Why is this hitting me so hard?” or “What is my problem, I didn’t know him, we weren’t friends”. The truth is, he was our friend and we did know him and this should affect us as much as anyone else because it is sad. The headlines read, “World mourns…”, and I think that this depicts the impact that he made because it really is the world that is sad. The biggest impact is on the mix of generations that grew up with him in their homes and lives watching him on television and on stage. His antics and personality flourished through his work and every single person that he interacted with connected him to his audience in a way that changed the way people think.
Mork and Mindy was never a show that I grew up with because that was before my time. However, I do remember watching Aladdin and loving it so much I wore out the VHS. I remember watching Flubber another movie that I repeatedly watch to this day and Jumanji, Hook, Goodwill Hunting, Jack, Toys, The Birdcage. All movies that were part of my childhood, all movies that shaped the person I am today. He’ll always bring smiles and laughter to peoples faces through his work but I somehow feel that a part of my childhood has died and all the happiness has gone from the world and that everyone is just kind of left wondering what we should all do now. One movie that reached me on a personal level as a young adult beginning my career in medical research is Patch Adams. Robin’s ability to ever so successfully portray the importance of patient health and change the mentality on clinical practice made me realize that there really is more to it than just treatment for disease.
Our job as health professionals is to improve the quality of life, not delay death because death is inevitable. So no matter whom you are, a doctor, a nurse, a volunteer, a patient, a scientist trying to find a cure, we can all make things a little better for each other if we just make the world a better place. There is no need for war and I am not just talking about men with guns, I’m talking about the lady behind you in line for coffee snarling at the fact that you aren’t moving fast enough, I’m talking about the guy that cut you off on the freeway and flipped you the bird, I’m talking about the doctor that came into your room and was so exhausted from working long hours that he didn’t even look at you. The importance is to take the time and have the patience to show people that improving the quality of life no matter how big or small will make a difference. For Robin this philosophy reflected him and what he did for all of us. He was a person taking care of people.
The thing is, it is hard and the world is a hard place that is only going to get harder unless humanity changes completely. Today, suicide is commonly regarded as selfish but I think in this case Robin Williams death was an act of heroism. His death will raise awareness about the importance of laughter and bringing happiness to the world. Yes, it is okay to be sad sometimes, everyone needs some down time but the secret ingredient to combatting all is what he sought out in all of his fans, laughter. Somehow, we are going to have to get on without him in our lives and make it through each day finding another way to laugh because not doing so will be a dishonour to him.
“You treat a disease, you win, you lose. You treat a person, I guarantee you, you’ll win, no matter what the outcome.” – Robin Williams, Patch Adams