"Free at last, free at last, thank God almighty, we are free at last." Martin Luther King, Jr, from his famous, "I have a dream" speech.
Those words echoed in my mind as I read the reports of Robin Williams' untimely death - by suicide.
Now we know, he was not only the most highly honored comedian of our age, he was - it appears, high on the list of the most tormented souls we will ever know. Dead - with his belt around his neck.
How could that be? I can tell you, it isn't that difficult. I still vividly remember that day, sitting in my car outside of the Post Office in Ojai, CA. I had deliberately parked in that spot. Laying on the front seat within arm's reach, was the .45 caliber pistol I was going to use to end the torment that raged in my mind I wanted to be free. Free of my reality, the fact that I actually agreed with some others; I was a failure. It was over, the end of the line. So, I reached over and tried to pick up that pistol. In a minute or so, it would be all over. The agony, the accusations, the fear that I was as others had claimed, a failure.
How could that be? I did not even know how I got to this place, this level of frustration. I merely knew that I hurt and that hurt was not going to go away. And then came the pain, the heart-wrenching pain, the fact that I had grown up, father less, he died and I didn't even know. Apparently, he died from a bump on the head that got worse and worse until it took his life. But why? Why didn't they tell me that I no longer had a father.
And then it dawned on me, take my life and I would leaving behind, four of the most beautiful children I had ever known. Who would tell them? What would they think? Why am I doing this?
Suddenly, it dawned on me. There was no legitimate reason for me to run from the fantasy that was playing out - in my mind. All I needed to do was face the facts of my life. It might not be easy, but somehow I believed it would be the right thing to do. I reached over and picked up the gun and opened the car door. I walked behind the Post Office to a grove of trees and threw it as far as I could and I turned and walked away.
And - from that moment forward, I have never looked back. Somehow, the torment that had brought me to that place was gone and I was free, free as I would eventually believe, free to be - me.
But today I grieve, not for those who are offering their best thoughts on how Robin Williams had touched their lives, but for the lives he left behind. The world will move on. The reality will last forever in the minds of those who are and will always be, his family.
I don't understand mental illness even though I have personally known, friends who were suffering from what other have termed is an illness. I have tried to help, never ever referring to that day so long ago, but merely by sharing the joy of living, day by day. That is my only answer. To overcome mental illness, you must live (capital L - i - v -e) day by day. Ignore the fact that the word - if, occupies the center of the word, life. I had been living in the past, the more recent past. I had been crippled by words and worse, the fact that those false facts were being used against me. How do you defend against false accusations when they are in the minds of people who do not even know you - as a person? It is easy to accuse a person, if you do not know the individual.
I am quite sure that wasn't Robin Williams' problem. He had enough money to hire attorneys who could defend him, even if he had been guilty. No, I have to think that his problem was linked to mine, he was hearing voices and they were so loud they were able to drown out the roars of applause that followed his performances. I had not heard an actual voice, but if I had been put to a test, I could have identified the voices that were in mind, the good and the bad.
But there is another voice and it is very real. It is a voice that is heard - daily, by millions of people, at home and abroad that is constantly calling for our attention. It is a still voice and It is there to let us know, we are loved and that whatever it is that we are doing, we will still be loved. Some want to identify the voice as coming from God, but that is noting more than a word - for most of us. It took me decades to understand the source, the word, but finally, I recognized it for what it actually is.
When we look to God, we see the rules by which we are to live and so we tend to ignore the voice as we are not prone to obey the rules. Nevertheless, the voice persists. It is the voice that caused the universe to come into being and it is so powerful, it can cause a blade a grass to wither when it ignore the voice. The sun, the moon, the stars, all of creation came into being at the sound of the voice.
And when the voice realized that humans would never bow down and acknowledge its being, it rewrote the script of life. You have heard about that in the book we call the Bible. You may even recognize some of the characters, but you probably missed the most important one. I believe - for a fact, Robin Williams did. The Bible was provided so that we might understand, that the creative voice meant to share the creation with the best known of its many accomplishments, that is - you and I, and even, Robin Williams.
So I close with this caveat, you don't have to believe me. I know how easy it would be to discount what you just read. The only problem is, you may still believe in religion in spite of all the evidence that it errs far too often. Try listening to the voice and you will learn to believe in the reality that had apparently been drowned out by the applause.
But when I began to consider the frustrations that have followed Robin William's demise, I realized it might be time to lay aside the things that don't work as we would have them work and talk about the spirit that indwells all of us.