Earlier this week, I was sitting at a hockey game in Matyshi, a suburb of Moscow. I was there to watch three young officials work a junior league game. I had just settled in to watch the start of the third period when my phone rang.
If his suicide has any silver lining, it's that depression and mental illness are now being talked about more openly. In far-flung India, China and Vietnam, where mental illness, especially depression, is a taboo subject, it is now on the front pages of newspapers and TV programs reporting on Williams' suicide.
These celebrity losses can also trigger painful memories of our own past losses and can raise existential questions.
I don't look forward to death because it will cramp my style, but at the same time, I don't view it as the ultimate tragedy. As I view life and death, the ultimate tragedy is living in a way that you miss opportunities to make a difference in the world around you while you are alive.
There is so much to learn from a beautiful man like Robin Williams. Robin taught us that adult laughter and comedy were healing. He could, just by being him, make any topic, dark or light, somehow hysterically funny. We were all enamored with him because he reminded us to see the humor.
The actor's death should be a springboard for opening up the dialogue on what depression is really all about.
Depression is a real disease, serious as cancer or heart attack. For some they fight for years trying to make sense of it, balance chemicals with medication, and go to counseling hoping to see the brighter side of life. Others like my stepmother and Robin Williams have already lost that fight.
I also spent more than a decade in hospice care, where our care team sought to companion families, many like Kasem's, in finding sacred consonance in the midst of fear, pain, death, and grief, all inherently dissonant experiences.
I wrote this several months ago. Seems quite fitting to post it now in light of the passing of Robin Williams: We are at war America. We are fighting...
The secret is to ask, and then release. You don't have to keep asking. Asking of the universe is a lot like going out to eat. You wouldn't drive up to a fast food window and ask over and over for your order.
Depression can lurk just beneath the surface of a seemingly "all together" or funny or successful person. I think that's why so many were shocked about the news of Williams death being linked to a suicide.
Suicide is a very difficult death to explain to children. In addition, when the person was someone famous or influential, it is important that we both speak about it in a way that is compassionate to the individual who and that helps our children know that if they are ever deeply troubled, there are ways of getting help.
Life's an "Inside Job" that begins and ends with our innermost thoughts and emotions. My generation is bombarded with sound bites and media that often causes us to lose perception of the reality of life in Hollywood.
When someone kills themselves, it arouses all kinds of responses. Disbelief. Despair. Anger. Confusion. Fear. Overwhelming empathy for those who loved that person. Deep sadness for the one who faced such a choice.
I had to remind myself that no matter how much fame, wealth or appreciation we get as humans, the bigger demon is what lives inside of us. It is our own brain that tends to tell us that we aren't good enough or that we are just not worthy of being happy.
I've never had the chance to say these words to him face-to-face. And I don't know if I'd actually waste even one breath on him if he were right in front of me. But if I did have that chance and some breath to spare, here is what I would say.