My uncle passed away during my first year living in Japan. My mom emailed me about it, and I sat down on the floor where I was standing and cried. I felt so alone in that moment, so far removed from my family, and nothing felt safe.
My uncle was always smiling, always joking. Whenever I was around him, everything was laughter and fondness. He gave me one of the greatest compliments I’ve ever received. When I said I wanted to live in Ireland one day, he paused to think about that for a second, and I held my breath. My uncle was Irish, born and bred, and whatever he said next would be etched in stone for me. Finally, he flexed his hands on the steering wheel and nodded, oddly serious for once. “You’d do well there,” he said.
He had eons of jokes ready for any given situation, and endless stories from his childhood in Ireland. He’d chuckle and call me a gerbil because of how I eat, and he’d take me on trips to see The Tiger Man, one of his clients who works with endangered wild cats.
I wasn’t ready to lose him, and it hurt to find out that was the end of his presence in my life. However, ever since his death, I’ve pretended that he’s still alive and I just don’t ever have the chance to see him when I go home. Maybe it’s not healthy, but it makes it hurt less that he’s gone.
I think it’s an especially brutal kind of pain to lose someone who could make you laugh. Maybe that’s part of why Robin Williams’ death is resonating so deeply with so many. I’ve seen people all over saying Robin felt like their favorite uncle, and it’s amazing that he had that kind of influence. He was such an intrinsic part of my generation growing up, even when he wasn’t in the public eye, he was always part of our lives. He was the Genie, Peter Pan, the lost jungle boy, Mrs. Doubtfire, Sean Maguire, and endlessly more.
Even though I knew he was mortal, I never thought I’d live in a world without him.
This one is going to sink deep.
It was known he was struggling, and he addressed it in his comedy and elsewhere, but I hoped he would outlive the pain.
Still, if I could tell him one thing, I’d say just this: “It’s not your fault.”
He deserved better. ♡
Honestly, I don’t think I can say goodbye to Robin Williams yet. And in a way, I don’t think I have to.
“Do not stand at my grave and cry;
I am not there. I did not die.”
-Mary Elizabeth Frye