The recent death of talented actor/comedian Robin Williams touched me quite deeply—as it did so many others around the world. While we will miss his presence greatly, his gifts of joy and laughter will continue to delight countless others as his extraordinary work takes on new life of its own. Few could ever ask for—much less expect to leave, such a grand legacy behind.
What is most disturbing to many wasn’t necessarily Mr. Williams’ death, but the manner in which it reportedly occurred. How could one so respected and revered—even adored by so many, have possibly taken his own life? What was it that seemed so terrible, so devastating, or so hopeless that it resulted in this tragedy? And wasn’t there anything anyone could have done to prevent it?
I recall asking myself the same questions a number of years ago when my grandfather committed suicide. A proud, independent man in his early 80’s, he apparently decided to take his own life when he realized that some age-related health conditions might take away his ability to drive. He loved to travel and would take frequent trips, often driving thousands of miles to see and photograph the natural wonders of Alaska, Canada, and the Western United States. His perceived loss of independence, together with other seemingly insurmountable concerns, must have become more than he could bear. Whatever his burden, it led to his ultimate decision. I do understand that it was his life—and I will always respect his right to make that choice for himself, but I can’t help but feel it was an unnecessary and painful one—both for him and our family.
In my career, I’ve dealt with a number of suicidal people over the years. Thankfully, most of them made it through their crises. While I can’t judge or even begin to understand their hopelessness, in nearly every case the problem they cited as the main reason for their despair was a transitory one. In other words, it was something temporary that was likely to get better with time. In many cases, it was even something “fixable”. Death is not. Once one’s choice to die is acted upon, there’s usually no going back.
I know it must be extremely difficult for a person to see past their suffering in such a desperate situation, but if you are someone who is even thinking of ending your own life (or if you know someone who is), please don’t give up! Reach out for help. Know that, even if you think no one truly cares about you, there are millions of people who do—even though you may not know them. In fact, many are ready to assist you in working things through and they are only a phone call away. If you don’t have or know the suicide prevention hotline in your local area, just dial 9-1-1. You may not see it at the moment, but people do care and you are loved. Your unique “light” is as important to our world as any other and to extinguish it needlessly would be a tragic loss for all.
On the other side of the coin, if you’re reading these words, you can easily help through the simple act of sharing. Share your love with those in your life—as much as you can, as often as you can—every single day. Let them know you care. This knowledge may be the one last thing that gives someone with little hope the courage to go on living. If everyone was to do the same and just one person’s life was saved as a result—perhaps even someone in your family, it would certainly be worth it.
In fact, even absent such dire circumstances, it would still be worth it. After all, when it comes to love, can we ever give or receive too much?
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