Shazbat

“I believe I could do dance on ice, or play in a musical of Freud’s life called “It’s Your Mother”- or maybe one for the symbolists: “Jung at Heart”. There’s always the one about India: “The Ghandi Man Can”.

Robin Williams

She was the coroner for the county I came to when I started my private practice many years ago. She was well known around the area, sister to one of the local primary care physicians, and very active in trying to figure out why our county had one of the highest suicide rates in the entire state. She also started a custom of painting a white cross on the highway at the spot of each traffic fatality her office had to work.

I met her in the course of doing my own work, first as a staff psychiatrist, later as a senior psychiatrist and then as medical director for a two-county mental health center. We talked about the numbers, the cases, the treatments that worked and those that failed. We talked about her task force, and I came to be a more active part of it later, as time went on.

She was passionate. She was loud. She was persuasive. She was dogged. She was unconventional. She was driven.

She got cancer.

She was very sick, in and out of work, finally unable to do any more. We talked, on various levels and in various contexts, about what it all meant. Her work. My work. Her life. My life. Her death.

She died.

I don’t remember all of it, not the details of it, but I do remember one thing very clearly, even today. I remember the gut wrenching feeling I got, deep in my core, when I heard she had died. I was done for the day. I couldn’t think. I couldn’t focus. I couldn’t do anything but go home. I did.

I lay across my bed, in my bedroom at home, and cried. Really cried. I don’t know how long. I just know I cried, hard. I didn’t know then what I was crying about. I just knew that I was tremendously sad. I knew that we had lost something important, somebody important, somebody who cared.

I was driving home today when I got the text from my oldest daughter.

No, I had not heard. What?

No.

No, no, no, no, no, no.

More texts, tweets, posts, quotes, pictures, film titles, Oscar shots, more quotes.

“Apparent suicide.”

I knew him like we all knew him.

Not personally, but as Mork. As the guy behind the mic loudly proclaiming “Good morning, Vietnam!” As the voice behind some of the most beloved characters in film. As one of the voices who made feet happy. As a man who sat and made a fund raising commercial with a little boy from my community, a boy who had defied all odds and survived the onslaught of a horrendous cancer with the help of the staff at St. Jude’s.

I felt the tears coming again, for this man that I had never talked to in person, or sat around a table with discussing suicide and mental health care. I felt the tremendous rush of emotion that comes with knowing that someone is really gone, permanently gone, and that nothing anyone can do will ever bring them back again.

I understand the tears now, though, at least better than I did when my friend died of cancer those years ago.

We weep not because we have lost someone. If we live long enough, ALL of us will lose someone, more than likely several someones.

We weep because we know what they have brought out in us. What they have made us do. We think better because of them. We ask questions. We marvel. We dream. We dance. We sing. We love. We laugh, oh, my do we laugh and laugh and laugh and laugh.

They make us better, and when they are gone we know that we will never quite be the same again.

Robin Williams 1951-2014

15 thoughts on “Shazbat

  1. 63 years old. Sad. Terrible loss. I think of others close and far away who have gone that way. Always a question why? They don’t have to die! Depression can be treated!

    Christine

  2. Greg, I love to read your blogs. I have had a few family members to commit suicide, but the one that hurt me the most was my nephew. He was so young and had a good life going for himself. Had a sweet wife who was a nurse and a great career with the family business he was about to be in control of. They just bought their first home and was so close to paying off one of their cars. No one ever expected something like that to happen with him , but it did. We do not know why he did it. He left a note telling his wife he was sorry but we do not know what he was sorry for. He sat in his truck one evening in his drive way after he got off of work. With a shot gun between his feet he pulled that trigger with the barrel toward his head. In an instant life can change the life’s of so many. I myself have been down that road of depression, but never in a million years would I ever think of killing myself or anyone. I justcan

  3. It can be treated, sure, but sometimes the pain is just way too overwhelming and there is no immediate relief in sight. I just loved the guy.

  4. Elaine,

    My first cousin’s fifteen year old son killed himself for reasons that looked so odd and trivial after the fact, but drove him to do it.

    A neighbor’s grown son, a friend in church, and several patients over thirty years in psychiatry.

    I’ll never truly understand it.

    Greg

  5. Yes.
    “We weep because we know what they have brought out in us. What they have made us do. We think better because of them. We ask questions. We marvel. We dream. We dance. We sing. We love. We laugh, oh, my do we laugh and laugh and laugh and laugh.”
    We remember and we mourn. We learn from theur actions and we give thanks.
    Thank you for you post.

  6. Thank you for articulating what I could not–why I was so sad when I heard he had died. My friends and I watched “Mork and Mindy” when we were in medical school, and we rarely watched tv. It was welcome comic relief and escape from the drudgery of memorization. I wish he could have conquered his own demons the way he made us forget about ours. Shared this link on my Facebook page.

  7. I always enjoy reading your mental health musings.  This one was exceptionally heartwarming.  You continue to be an inspiration to always be a better human being and to let go of some of the “stuff” in life that weighs us down.  I’m extremely privileged to be able to call you my friend.  Thank you for always being such a positive influence and sharing your words of wisdom.  :)

    ________________________________

  8. One of the reasons I’m a regular reader is your ability to make sense out of the insensible, no better example than here. Robin Williams’ death left me numb, and it must have done the same to many of his fans. Your writing brings back feeling, warmth, and color. As always, thanks Doc!

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