Robin Williams is not the first person I’ve known who has committed suicide. It’s funny to say “known” because I of course only know the outward persona of Robin Williams–the side he chose to let me see by portraying characters in film and TV, and through interviews, stand-up comedy, etc. So, I don’t really know him–but I knew him enough that his death effected me. It effected many of us. Robin Williams was a comedic genius, who also had such heart and depth of feeling that the roles he played just stayed with us. So, when it was announced that he had committed suicide, we the public reacted with intense feelings. Sadness, of course. Shock. Disbelief. Anger. It’s the same myriad of feelings that comes with any death, especially suicide. This was just played out on a globally public stage. Matt Walsh, a popular conservative blogger, posted “Robin Williams Didn’t Die from a Disease: He Died From His Choice.” The backlash to that was fast and furious. People were angry , not just because of what Mr. Walsh wrote about our beloved Genie, but because of the implications for ALL people who are depressed to the point of suicide, who have succumbed or who have somehow been brought back from the brink. He was accused of being everything from insensitive to the devil incarnate. But….Was he wrong? In reality, Matt Walsh is both right AND wrong. It’s never been a secret that Robin Williams suffered from depression and addictions. He talked about it during his lifetime, and he was always open about his struggles. His family has been fairly open, or at least matter-of-fact, about the details of his death. It is accepted that depression is an illness, as real as cancer, diabetes, dengue. So, is suicide the same as dying from kidney failure if you’re diabetic? Or is it a choice, as Mr. Walsh proposes? As I’ve said, I am no stranger to suicide. My grandfather took his own life when my father was two years old. I will never know why–it wasn’t discussed–but I can imagine that it may have had something to do with the Great Depression, with being a veteran in WWI….and I don’t know what other demons he may have battled. Judging from poetry I’ve found that my dad wrote, my own father struggled with depression, and I know that I have had my…. we’ll call them “moments.” I’ve had more than one coworker take their own life. I worked with cops for 15 years, so that was inevitable. Suicide is a major cause of death to police officers and retired police officers. I have had other family members take their lives as well. So I’ve felt it. The sadness. The guilt. The RAGE. How could they make that choice? Honestly, it’s a question that gets asked, in our heads and hearts. The reason we ask, is because everything we do, every day, from rolling over in bed as we wake up, to pulling up the comforter as we lay down to sleep, involves choices. So, obviously, the choice to step off that chair, or pull that trigger, or swallow those pills, is clearly, a choice. Here’s how we need to look at it, though:
Can you see the door in this room? Can you see where the light switch is? If I told you to just open the door and leave, could you? Can you even choose to turn on the light if you don’t know where the switch is? Now imagine that this “room” is infinite. It’s your life. Everyone around you offers you hope, and maybe you find it for a time–but at some point, you wake up, and there you are in the middle of the oppressive blackness again. At some point, “choice” becomes a meaningless word because it doesn’t seem there ARE any choices anymore. If there are, you can’t see them. An option you can’t take isn’t really an option, is it?
Okay. I don’t know if that analogy makes sense to anyone but me.
I recently read of depression and suicide as being akin to a descent down a declining trail. At some points the fall can be slowed and possibly reversed, but circumstances (again, circumstances that only God and the person living them can understand) cause the decline to be steeper and steeper, until it ends at a cliff. At some point, the sufferer can no longer stop the slide and has no choice in going over the edge.
I don’t know if that analogy works better but hopefully some combination of the two can make my point about choice.
But here’s the REAL gist of what I need to say.
Dear Everyone: IF YOU AREN’T THE PERSON IN WHATEVER THE SITUATION IS, YOU HAVE NO RIGHT TO JUDGE WHAT THEY DO, WHAT THEY FEEL, HOW THEY REACT!
No one can say, “I’ve been depressed, and I didn’t commit suicide.”
“I just got medicated and it helped.” “Jesus helped me feel happy.” “I found a way to make my spirit happy and that was that.” or whatever you want to say.
NO ONE can fully understand why someone would take their life. What cross they have to bear. IS depression a sickness of the spirit as much as of the body? YES I believe it is. But not in the same way that Matt Walsh does. The spirit, that part of us that is eternal, is in the flesh–it’s in the body. When a person is born, and they have some sort of disability or sickness, that sickness can for sure effect the mind and the internal, eternal spirit. Depression, being a sickness that just sucks the life out of everything and colors the most beautiful things in a drab, lifeless, colorless nothing, can overpower the most spiritual of spiritual people. I mean, we are told that if we have faith we can do anything–but no one tells a cancer patient “If you just had enough faith, those cancer cells overriding all your organs would just go away.” Let’s not try to dissect something as senseless as suicide with our finite and mortal minds. It’s not our job, and it doesn’t help anyone.
By the way, here’s the guy who is capable and qualified to judge what’s going on when someone commits suicide:
I chose this picture on purpose. Only Christ knows what any one of us are going through at any time. Only HE can understand fully what anyone’s state of mind is when they choose to end their life–and if that “choice” is really a choice at all at that point.
I know that God loves us all. I know that He wants to give all of us EVERYTHING. So, I KNOW that when Robin Williams left this life, God gave him ALL of the peace that He could. God knows His child Robin, He knows what illness was in his mind and body, He knows the desires of his heart. It’s not some balance where the good deeds and the evil deeds get weighed against some absolute mystical measuring device. God our Father and His Son have one goal in mind: the “immortality and eternal life of man.” So, they are going to provide the absolute upper limit of mercy to their beloved Robin. They will do the same for their beloved Leann, their beloved Matt Walsh, their beloved (insert your name here).
For myself, I don’t try to understand the incomprehensible horror that is suicide. To do so doesn’t help me, or the person who is already gone, or their families. What I CAN do is pray for peace. Peace for him, for his family, friends, and for the enormous extended family that was made better by his contributions, and who feel the loss at his death.