I, like many of you, was shocked and saddened to hear about the news of Robin Willliams’ death on Monday. Sudden deaths to me always feel surreal and being an empathetic, emotional person, losses are always accompanied with tears whether I “know” the person or not. I cry for the family, for the person, for those touched near and far. Death is never easy to deal with and in this case, it’s brought a few lessons to light for me this week.
1. Live a life that impacts those around you. As tweets, posts, statements and pictures flooded in, it was obvious that the world felt Robin’s loss heavily. In instances like this, I can’t help but wonder what kind of impact it would make on the world if I passed away. No, I don’t expect or want a worldwide hashtag trending, but I do hope to live a life where my absence would affect others in a meaningful way.
We had a close family friend pass away suddenly in April and as I attended his wake and read the steady flow of Facebook comments flood his page, it was obvious that people knew what kind of person he was, what he stood for, and who he believed in. His laughter was infectious, his smile was warm and his hugs were among the best. I remember telling one of his kids how blessed they were to have a father who left such a legacy. We have the chance every day to affect those around us in a positive way. We can choose to show grace and mercy to those who maybe don’t “deserve” it in our opinion. We can genuinely smile at someone who looks to be having a rough day. We can go out of our way to show kindness to those around us – encouraging them, bringing them meals in tough times, and offering hugs when there are no words. And most importantly, we can make it obvious who our Father is and allow Him to seep out of our pores, making it impossible for those around us to question His existence and presence in our lives.
2. Live life as if today is your last day, your last week, your last month, your last year. I hope and pray that you have a long, rich life full of laughter and memories and blessings. I hope and pray that if your life ends sooner than it should, that it is never at your own hand. I hope and pray that NONE of life’s circumstances alter the joy that you carry with you every day. But we know that a long happy and healthy life isn’t always realistic in a broken world and we are surrounded by sudden deaths daily.
At times I wish that I could just have a straightforward answer at what the rest of my life would look like. “You will have 1 child at age 34.” Or “You will never have children.” I feel like there could be so much freedom in simply being able to stop living life wondering what was ahead. But then I realize that NONE of my circumstances should affect my joy. So what if you found out today that you weren’t going to get a different job? You weren’t going to be able to sell your house for 2 more years and the budget would be tight for a little while longer? Wouldn’t there be joy and freedom in simply knowing that you don’t have to worry about it? Well guess what – we DON’T have to worry about it. We do what we can and then we let God handle the rest. His timing, not ours. He carries our burdens, but only when we have the ability to unclench our fists and allow Him to grab them from us. I’ve been guilty of crying out “God, take this burden from me, but let me hold on onto it so I maintain the control please.” So counterproductive.
So let’s embrace the mantra ‘Carpe diem’, seize the day. George Harrison says it best, ““It’s being here now that’s important. There’s no past and there’s no future. Time is a very misleading thing. All there is ever, is the now. We can gain experience from the past, but we can’t relive it; and we can hope for the future, but we don’t know if there is one.”
3. Mental Illness is real and like any other illness, it has to be dealt with. Anytime there is a suicide, it reminds me of how cruel mental illness is. While cancer might infect your bones or liver, mental illness infects your brain and the way you think and handle life. The good news is that with the help of modern day medicine, psychiatrists, and therapists, help is available and the use of medication can assist with the balance of the chemicals in your brain. Mental illness IS possible to treat. The sad thing is that there is such a stigma around it which prevents many people from ever getting help. But know that you are not alone in your struggle. If you are ever battling depression, anxiety, or suicidal thoughts, please tell someone, even if the thought of that seems exhausting. While spirituality is a component in healing, it is not the only component. God is our Healer and He has given us amazing medical resources to help with healing, including medications. Please don’t ever feel like you are a bad Christian because of your struggle or ignore your battle hoping to pray it away. Mental illness is not your identity, just like infertility isn’t my identity. It may be something we struggle with but it does not define who we are. Seek help because life doesn’t have to end by your hands. You are too loved to let that happen.
4. Be kind and loving, you never know the battle someone else is facing. Hardships are real and we are in no place to judge or make assumptions about why someone is the way they are. I have never heard someone say at a funeral “Well, I was too kind to him.”, instead, people wish they had been kinder and softer with people. Take the time to lift others up, not tear them down. Life is too short and we never know what the other person’s day is like. Instead of trying to teach someone a lesson about driving too slow or serving your table at a snail’s pace, think that maybe, just maybe, the lesson you are meant to “teach” them is one of undeserved grace. I have a hard time believing that a dirty look, a minimal tip or hands being thrown up in the air is going to make any sort of positive impact on their life.
So Robin, know that your life has affected others around you. I am taking the time to reconsider how I am living my life as a result of your death. Your talent was beautiful to observe. Jumanji scared the heck out of me, Blubber made me laugh, Dead Poet’s Society made me think, Good Will Hunting challenged me, Mrs. Doubtfire made me giggle (and was the first movie my sister and I watched in my parent’s bed, which always made it extra special), Aladdin made me contemplate my life’s wishes and the list could continue. While I will never be in a movie, I hope to use my gifts to impact others positively as you did with yours. I’m so sorry you didn’t find the peace in this life that you were searching for.
Friends, let’s not let another death go by without using it to better our lives. Life is short and a gift, let’s embrace it for all it’s worth.