Folks —

Such a rough week with the loss of the magnificence that is Robin Williams. A gut, soul and heart punch to be sure. Yes, he was a genius artist, but he was also a high priest — a great leader in our midst, showing everyone, through his rare gifts of expression, what love, loving, laughter, laughing do for our well-being.

And yet, sadly, paradoxically, he couldn’t get a hold of, or hold on to his
own well-being.

This begs, for me, the age-old question: do our great teachers and wise men really have to suffer — like hang on a cross suffer — to wake us up to what’s truly important in life?

Crazy, but I have, since my earliest memories, been able to see the bigger picture, fairly quickly, in the face of some pretty tragic life events. Survival mechanism or just intuitive sense-making of what, at the time, makes no sense? Probably both.

For example — I knew that my brother Tim’s completely unexpected death, two weeks before 9-11 was his soul’s higher calling to be available to greet the many souls killed in the wake of that horrific incident.

Tim was a high priest in his own right, who was needed, I’m convinced, for his extraordinary brand of warmth and leadership, in non-physical, at a pivotal time in consciousness.

Also, and this may sound woo woo, but so be it — he did come to me in a vision, the day of his passing, and told me, in no uncertain and most joyous terms to “tell everyone that I’m OK.” I promised him I would, although most whom I told had no listening for this message in the anguish of their own grief. I understood. Still, I delivered his words and felt the comfort of this higher knowing almost immediately.

News of Robin William’s death — the place of despair that he reached to take his own life — has started an elevated conversation amongst us. A necessary and absolutely, yes — life-affirming conversation.

I have been deeply touched by all the posts I’ve read — people talking openly, honestly, “coming out” about their own struggles with clinical depression, substance addiction — even Parkinsons Disease — and the help they’ve sought and gotten.

In my own family ancestry, the themes of untreated depression, alcoholism and even the hushed details of a great Aunt’s suicide have been generationally held in the shadows of discussion, rather than brought out into the light for honest dialogue, prevention and healing.

Really — thank you, Robin.

It seems that in your saddest of exits there’s become a greater willingness for us now to at least look, with hearts-cracked-open-a-smidge-more, at the giant and ancient elephant in the middle of the room. Shame, confusion and misunderstanding about mental illness has had us averting our eyes for way too long.

Yet… and it’s such a good yet —

Paying mindful, heart-centered attention is the launch pad for real change. It is, folks. I believe it. I am devastated that Robin is gone, but I am also encouraged at the same time. Yes, really, that’s my bigger picture take away and here’s why:

The roles he chose, the level of spontaneous, unfiltered, side-splitting comedy he delivered were all about the elephant — sitting on it, riding it, playing with it, pointing it out. With him, you just couldn’t take your eyes off the elephant. Look over here. Deal with the elephant, it’ll be OK.

Mental illness, in all of its complex variations — for we are deeply complex beings — is not only OK as part of the human experience, it’s also not the affected human being’s fault. Whether it’s a traumatic brain injury, PTSD, ADD, OCD, depression or a myriad of other conditions, it is just that — a condition versus a weakness of character.

Someone who is treatable rather than discardable, dismissable or to be disgusted by.

That last bit was for my maternal great grandmother, who, around 1916 was locked in an institution and forgotten by her family. Indeed, her young children were lied to, told she’d died, when the truth was she was sick with depression and alcoholism. No assignment of blame meant, only a recognition that everyone was doing their best with what they had to work with at that time. The impact, nonetheless, was far-reaching.

We’ve come a long way since Mary Smith’s time and struggle with these
life-zapping conditions. Though we can’t see mental illness on the immediate surface (again, back to our uniquely wired brains within) today, for the most part, we recognize these conditions as very real. We understand the human brain and physiology so much more. We have more compassionate and helpful treatments available. We are able to look at someone as a unique mind, body and spirit — an individual — rather than just lumping those who have difficulty maintaining mental health into the loony category.

Still, with all of this knowledge, expansion and growth — why must it get to suicide? Indeed, why the reported 22 per day amongst military — active duty and veteran?

Goodness, I do not have answers and accept that I may never have them. What I do have is a choice to dare to be part of a higher discussion, which is why I am pouring myself into making “STRANGER AT HOME”. At its core for me, this film is an exploration in deeper healing — for myself, for our veterans, for all of us.

Robin Williams was a healer extraordinaire who played and performed alongside us. His healing legacy, I would like to believe, is for all of us to pick up where he left off — and then some.

On the elephant ride,


P.S. We are honored to be participating in an upcoming fundraising event, with some amazing souls also dedicated to helping veterans and their families. It’s a USO-tour type evening right here on home soil. We’re lining up some great comedians, who have all performed overseas for our troops. It does not go by me that, this week, I read that Robin Williams had performed in13 countries, for over 90,000 troops for the USO Tour. His “rider” for his performances — in events such as this, or concerts, or certain films had nothing at all personal like extra trailers, trainers and chefs. His only requirement was that the production or venue hire a certain amount of homeless people. Say no more.