Farewell to Robin Williams: a thank you note

robin

Robin Williams died today.

It seems surreal to write that.

But since writing is the way I process the incomprehensible — I find myself writing.

Everyone is tweeting and facebooking and calling into radio shows about what a great talent Robin was.

Yeah. He was. But that wasn’t what I adored about him. It was the fact that he was an incredibly kind human being.

When I was 14 years old, I went on location to film Mrs. Doubtfire for five months, and my high school was not happy. My job meant an increased workload for teachers, and they were not equipped to handle a “non-traditional” student. So, during filming, they kicked me out.

It’s devastating, at 14, to have your formal education terminated. I felt like a freak and a reject. When I arrived at work the next day, Robin noticed that I was upset and asked me what was wrong. I explained what had happened, and the next day, he handed me a letter that he wrote to my school. He explained that I was just trying to continue my education while pursuing my career. He wrote embarrassingly kind things about my character and my work, and requested that they reconsider and allow me to return to my classes.

When I told him I still didn’t think they would take me back, he said, “It’s kinda like Amnesty International. That school just needs to know that people know the truth.”

The school framed the letter. They hung it in the principal’s office. But they didn’t invite me to return to school.

But here’s what matters from that story. Robin stood up for me. He was in my corner. I was only 14, but I had already seen that I was in an industry that was full of back-stabbing. And it was entirely clear that Robin had my back.

I know I said thank you at the time and I’m sure I wrote one of those stiff thank you notes that 14-year-olds write with slanting lines and spelling mistakes. But that all seems so insufficient now.

Even though I had not spoken with Robin in a very long time, I always assumed there would be some future opportunity to tell him that his letter changed my life. It taught me that you stand up for the things that matter. And even if your attempts fail, you tried. You told the truth. You took care of your friends. You fought back.

None of us really know what fights Robin was battling, but I know his struggles were not uncommon. It’s estimated that 16 million people in the US have struggled with depression – and I include myself in that statistic. It’s real and it’s not shameful and there is help available.

You can bring it to the light, you can tell the truth, you can go to a meeting, you can reach out to a friend.

None of us are alone.

And if you have someone in your life who you are grateful for — someone to whom you want to write another heartfelt, slanted, misspelled thank you note – do it. Tell them they made you feel loved and supported. That they made you feel like you belonged somewhere and that you were not a freak.

Tell them all of that.

Tell them today.

 

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The number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-TALK (8255)

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(ETA: If you are interested in reading the letter, you can see it here.)

 

278 thoughts on “Farewell to Robin Williams: a thank you note

  1. Beautiful story! People need to be there for one another. There is so much suffering in the world and it is not always so obvious as it is not always socially “acceptable”. Please love one another….life is short and precious

  2. Thank you for sharing this lovely story. There are people who come into your lives who make a serious difference. It sounds like Robin was an great inspiration for you up close. My condolences.

  3. Thank you for that. It’s nice to know that there are still some genuinely nice people in Hollywood. Robin Williams will be missed.

  4. Thank you for your lovely tribute to Robin Williams, Lisa.

    I wish I knew what else to say, except “thank you” — but since I don’t have any other words (a writer having no words is not good, but that’s where I stand, and have stood, since I heard the news of Mr. Williams’ passing), it will have to do.

  5. Kindness begets kindness. Your encouragement to reach out to others will help – maybe save – some people. I’m sure Robin would be proud of you for this.

  6. Thanks for your glad remembrance of Robin Williams, and more importantly for your willingness to share your unconventional journey. Much soul. Peace and best, John

  7. I’ve seen the movie a couple of times, but now i read this, I really see the “fatherlike” figure in Him, the way he handeld your problem, the way he handels kids, that only makes it harder to accept that he had a depression. The best Robin
    Evert.

  8. Thank you for this beautiful blog post about Robin. What a good man he was. I am having such a hard time processing that he’s gone. A man I didn’t know personally and had never met, but he impacted me so significantly. He was one of the good things that defined what was best about our pop culture. I’m glad you had such a person in your life and that he, yes indeed, had your back. Thank you for sharing this. That school has a whole lot of chutzpah, huh?

  9. Thank you for sharing this with us. We are all in our hearts still 14 year old kids. Old hurts and old victories surface and re-surface. My high school provided me with a really bad experience that I have not forgotten. Why they can’t see the big picture that their decisions affect people’s futures I’ll never understand.

    I’ve had very few people in my corner like Robin was in yours. They are gone now too. I am so sorry for your loss.

    Depression is very real and in this decade should have no stigmas. We, none of us need to feel alone, yet when we are depressed, we all do. I feel for what Robin must have been going through and understand it all too well.

    Big huggz honey!

  10. Sitting here thinking how he touched millions he didn’t even meet and yet none of us could help a man who was kind to so many, I hope his death will bring change of this terrible disease so people are not afraid to speak out. I feel in his last role he inspired the world to change the stigma of this disease and people are “coming out” and talking about how they feel and what it’s like, I do not suffer from it but the last week have learned a lot due to all the discussion about it and my friends coming forward. Thank you for your beautiful post, I am sure Robyn knew how much it meant to you he sent the letter to your school and tried to help, your thank you note from a 14 year old was enough.

  11. Lisa,

    Thank you so much for sharing your story. When I heard the news I went into shock over his passing and the manner as to how it was ended. His passing has very much effected my girlfriend and I. I can only imagine how painful it has been for you and many who have worked with him and those lives he has touched in a personal way.

    All those who have known Robin have expressed what a kind person he was and how good he has been to them and all others. Not a unkind word has been spoken about him. That says a lot about a person in this day of age.

    Julie and I have bought every film that Robin has made We just saw the one with you and Robin. We laugh and cry throughout each of them. At the end, we cry even a bit more over this loss.

    Lisa, thank you for sharing your story with us. We also are terribly sorry for your loss of your dear friend and please accept our deepest condolences

    Tim & Julie

  12. Robin would be proud of you for the lovely letter you wrote i Didn’t know him
    In person but i grew up watching him on TV so i felt as if i lost a friend if you grew up being touched by the type of person he was he could be in your heart forever. He was a beautiful kind Soul and what he did for you was kindness in his heart he will be very proud of you of this letter In your heart he ‘ll thank you

  13. Heartfelt. Naked. Honest. Beautiful. I love you for that letter. Please let me know if you need ANYTHING

  14. The movie Mrs. Doubtfire has inspired me in some ways that up until now I could get those nostalgic feeling. Thank you Lisa for sharing wonderful thoughts like this. Robin Williams will always be remembered.

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