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Wednesday, August 20, 2014
Robin Williams "There are a lot a lot of amazing people out there to be grateful for and a loving God... that's what life is about."
Robin Williams made us all laugh. He lit up the studio every time he came with his incredible humor. People are leaving tributes to him on the Hollywood Walk of Fame where his star is, the home where he taped "Mrs. Doubtfire," and the bench where he taped that famous scene from "Good Will Hunting."
So much sadness for a man who brought so much joy and laughter. And as with many geniuses, he was one of those that was tormented by that demon.
"Have pity on me, Lord, son of David, for my daughter is tormented by a demon." We hear the great pain and the anguish of this mother who is interceding and coming to Jesus on behalf her daughter, who she doesn't know how to help. She doesn't know how to reach.
We heard that Robin Williams was one that suffered from depression, and we heard that last month he checked into the same place for rehab that he had been eight years ago. He definitely had said that he had a drinking problem, that he had issues that he had to deal with. And now his wife and his three children and the entire nation are left in mourning.
His wife said, "I lost my husband and my best friend, while the world has lost one of its most beloved artists and beautiful human beings."
His last Tweet would be to his 25-year-old daughter on her birthday. "Happy birthday to Ms. Zelda Rae Williams. Quarter of a century old today but always my baby girl. Happy birthday." And he would post of picture of her on Instagram of him and her when she was just a child. And she would post back after his death, "I love you. I miss you. And I will try to keep always looking up."
Robin Williams wasn't one to hold back about his personal struggles, and he wasn't one who could take them and transform them into his own punch lines, but he had a very different tone when he sat down in 2006, with Diane Sawyers. She would ask him, "Was there one moment when you fell into your addiction again? Was it one day?" Robin Williams responded in a very sobering tone, "No, it's usually very gradual. You're standing at a precipice and you look down and there is a voice, and it's a little quiet voice that goes, 'Jump.' It's the same voice, the same voice that goes, 'Just one. Just one. The same voice that says, 'Jump.' That tiny little voice. And for someone who has no tolerance for it, that's not the possibility. It's a voice that just lays there, waiting."
He would say later that there is a sadness, but also a hope. And you wish that those moments wouldn't happen, but they do, and they do for a purpose. It's to make you different. It's what they call a Buddhist gift, and I would call it, Robin Williams would say, the ultimate Christian gift. The idea is that Christ can transform our suffering.
Robin Williams said, "It's the idea you go back and you realize the thing that matters are others way beyond yourself. Self goes away. Ego - bye bye. You realize there are a lot of amazing people out there to be grateful for, and a loving God. And that's what life is all about."
So what does the church say about suicide, you know, about this terribly awful thing that happens to people? Well, there's three points that the church makes, and I'm going to state what the church teaches and then give you a little bit of an explanation.
So the first is everyone is responsible for his life before God. It is God who remains the sovereign Master of Life, and we are obliged to accept life gratefully and to preserve it for the honor and the salvation of souls. We are stewards, not owners, of our life that God has entrusted to us. It is not ours to dispose of.
Suicide contradicts the natural inclination of the human being to preserve and perpetuate life. It's gravely contrary to the just love of self. It likewise offends the love of neighbor because it unjustly breaks the ties of solidarity with family, nation and human services, which we have the obligation.
As we hear of Robin Williams, it's tearing his family apart now.
And suicide is contrary to the love of the living God. It ultimately goes against the fifth commandment: Thou shalt not kill. I think we all know this part. We know that suicide is a wrong act. You know, a sin -- the definition of sin is missing the mark. Suicide is gravely missing the mark. But how do we make sense of this? How do we make sense of someone like Robin Williams who is filled with so much love and so much joy that could do this to himself?
The Catechism says that grave psychological disturbances, anguish or grave fear of hardship, suffering or torture can diminish the responsibility of the one committing suicide. Think of Robin Williams. When you think about psychological disturbances. He suffered from depression. When you think about anguish, he went through this anguish of an artist where he had such great passion and was also tormented by the demons like the young girl we hear in the Gospel.
Grave fear of hardship or suffering. If you think about he was just diagnosed with Parkinson's. So on top of his depression, on top of his alcoholism and his addictions, now he found out he had Parkinson's.
These can diminish the responsibility of the one committing suicide.
So the church tries to look at people with this, with great sincerity and great love, and see that their freedom has been diminished. Their freedom is still there in some way, but it's been greatly diminished or compromised by these addictions and all the emotional things that go on with this.
And finally, the last point the Catechism makes, and I think it's the most important point and the beautiful point is, we should not despair of the eternal salvation of persons who have taken their own lives.
So I think many times that people think that church condemns people to hell who have committed suicide. And that's not the truth. The Catechism says, "We should not despair of eternal salvation of people that have taken their own lives."
By ways known to him alone, God can provide the opportunity for salutary repentance. I didn't know what salutary meant, so I had to look it up. And salutary means the idea or the optimistic good that God provides this wonderful opportunity for repentance. And the church prays for the persons who have taken their own lives. So that's what we do as a church. We pray for Robin Williams. We pray for people that have taken their own lives. We pray for people that you may know that have committed suicide. Ultimately, that's what we can do.
The truth is, suicide is a thing that does plague us. One in every 15 minutes, someone in our country commits suicide. The truth is, probably each and every one of us knows someone that has struggled with it, or maybe you, yourself, have been tempted by the thought of it. And if you have -- like we hear about the mother in the story today, she reached out to Jesus, she went to Him. And she was one that was not even considered worthy of going to Jesus, and she still went to him and asked for his healing. And oftentimes, it takes other people to intercede for us. It takes other people to be willing to go out of their way and to help us.
And ultimately, if you're experiencing this and if you ever thought about the suicide or are even thinking about it right now, reach out for help, and do it immediately. Call myself. Call Father Martello. Call any priest that you know. Call a suicide hotline. Call 911 if you need to. But don't allow yourself to be taken by this.
I want to end with my top five favorite Robin Williams' quotes, because it deals with this whole notion of despair, but also the notion of hope and ultimately the gift that Robin Williams left us in his humor and his comedy.
In "Dead Poet Society," we hear, "No matter what people tell you, words and ideas can change the world."
He will be quoted again, "What good amid these O me, O life? Answer: That you are here; that life exists, and identity; that the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse; that the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. What will your verse be?"
From the movie "Jack," "Please, don't worry so much because in the end, none of us have very long on this Earth. Life is fleeting. And if you're ever distressed, cast your eyes to the summer sky, when the stars are strung across the velvety night. When a shooting star streaks through the blackness, turning night into day, make a wish and think of me. Make your life spectacular."
The from the movie "Good Will Hunting," "You don't know about real loss because it only occurs when you love somebody more than you love yourself."
And finally, a quote that he left in an interview, "You are only given a little madness, a little spark of madness. You mustn't lose it."
So what are the warning signs of suicide? Some of the warning signs -- think about this of people you know that may be struggling.
The warning signs are they always talk or think about death.
There may be a clinical depression, a deep sadness, a loss of interest, trouble sleeping or eating that gets worse.
Having a death wish.
Constantly tempting fate by taking risks that could lead to death, such as driving fast or running red lights.
Losing interest in things that they once cared about.
Making comments about being hopeless or helpless or worthless.
Putting their affairs in order. Trying to tie up loose ends.
Changing a will.
Saying things like, "It would be better if I wasn't here" or "I want out."
Sudden unexpected changes, from being very sad to being very calm, or appearing to be happy.
Talking about suicide or killing oneself.
Visiting or calling people and saying good bye.
Be especially concerned if a person has exhibited any of these signs or has attempted suicide in the past.
Robin Williams would say, there's a sadness and there's also a hope. You wish that it wouldn't have happened, but for some reason, God does allow things like this to happen for a change in us. I would call it the ultimate Christian gift. The idea is that you go back and you realize that things do matter, that people do matter, that other people are what life is all about, and there are amazing people in our lives that love us, and to be grateful for a loving God that we have. That's what life is all about.