Speak Ill of the Dead, but Well of the Living
What if Robin Williams could have seen all the love that poured out in mourning his loss? What if all the people who had dismissed him as manic, needy and occasionally schmaltzy dropped their guard while he was alive? What if they admitted how endearing, creative and generous he was while he could still hear it?
That was one of the things that struck me in the wake of Williams’ death. The enormity of grief and personal recollections about his impact was surprising. I had always appreciated his humor and humanity, well, I did after Mork and Mindy. Whether bringing out his inner Peter Pan in Hook or running from his demons in Fisher King, he always seemed to be showing a piece of himself. We all probably knew him better than his friends and acquaintances because with them he was always so shy that he constantly escaped behind masks. But in some of his movie roles, he held a side of himself long enough for us to see ourselves.
Why am I writing about this now? Because when he died, every media burst with grief, love and memories. I can’t help but wonder if he understood even a little of his impact if he would have still committed suicide.
I have always been perplexed that we save our highest compliments and deepest appreciation until after someone is gone. I think we can all use some of those gifts while we’re still here.
Maybe it’s that we don’t recognize the impact until we see the void. Maybe we ought to peer at that through our imagination.
So, as we go into weekend with our friends and family, it might be a good time to take a good look at who we have in our lives. And also to pull in those who have slipped away but are still among the living.
They say to not speak ill of the dead. But we certainly don’t seem to mind speaking all sorts of ills of the living, even the ones we love most. The dead are gone. Let’s speak well of the living.