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September 16 • A Death Well Lived

Day 800

Hero worship is a dangerous thing. Too often have I been disappointed by the humanness of people who are supposed to be larger than life. But now and then, it seems unavoidable that we have to agree with the masses that someone was special or made a dent in the universe, as Apple's Steven Jobs proclaimed as his goal and accomplishment.

Sometimes I have identified with the giants of faith, and other times it's the celebrity of actors or the songwriting of a musician that draws me when I'm struggling against the urge to put someone on that pedestal.

Something happened this morning that brought Robin Williams to mind. I genuinely do not remember what started it, but I did a quick YouTube search for something specific about him and quickly spent an hour watching clip after clip of his best screen moments, his best bloopers, and the best things said about him by his family.

Without warning, I was transported back to the day of his death in 2014. This memorial memory was from a few months before I started acting out, but I was deep into the pressures of life and temptations and depressions that would eventually slide me into the dark side of myself.

At the time, we all thought Robin was suffering from run-of-the-mill depression (as if there is such a thing), and when I first heard of his death, it sent me into a downward spiral as I imagined through memories how he must have suffered inside himself. Though it turned out to be a far more complicated diagnosis that led to his death, I did not know about that when I heard his widow's first public statement on the same day of his passing, and neither did she.

"This morning, I lost my husband and my best friend, while the world lost one of its most beloved artists and beautiful human beings. I am utterly heartbroken."

— Susan Schneider Williams

Did you hear that? Did you hear what she said?

I literally fell to my knees, crying.

Sure, I was sad that Williams was gone, but those Hollywood types come and go, blah, blah, blah. I had braced myself against hurting by figuring he somehow deserved it, so when I heard his wife express such grief in her elegant and brief statement, it caught me off guard.

Did you hear what she said?

She claimed he was her 'best friend' and that he was a 'beautiful human being...'

It had been a long time since I imagined anyone saying any such thing about me. It overwhelmed me that someone (like me) who was spreading suffering at home by their moods and anxieties while posturing a positive persona in public could ever be considered a mate's best friend, much less a beautiful human. I am not equating myself with Robin Williams, but I did identify with his depression, and I so much wanted to identify with a depressed man whose wife loved him despite his struggles. I cried at the beauty of that, and at the impossibility of ever experiencing such unconditional affection.

Did you hear that?

She said she was heartbroken!

Where's the part where she talks about him being free of his pain? Where's the expression that says she's sad, but you can see in her eyes that she is also relieved. I knew only a little bit then about how hard I had been to live with as a battler of depression. But even an iota of understanding made it hard for me to imagine anyone actually missing me if I woke up dead, much less if I embarrassed them with a public suicide. And that was before my sexual acting out.

This is a bleak memory of sitting on the floor watching the TV with a tear-stained face in a moment of hope that someone would say something nice like that about me when I'm gone. However, a few minutes later, I was back on my feet and shaking off the Hollywood fantasy of happy everaftering. I wished I'd stayed on the floor and cried some more.

I have been fortunate. As I've fought and released my addiction and my depression and my acting out, it has slowly become clear that there are people who love me. My wife seems truly more heartbroken that I have to live with this addiction than she is by all my unfaithfulness, lies, and ill-treatment of her. Let's be clear: She still struggles with complicated emotions about how my disease has manifested. But she has me believing that it is possible to love someone who is depressed, someone who is an addict, and even someone like me. We have become better friends than I had ever imagined, and that is such an unlikely thing for me to understand.

And I'm still hard to live with, but hopefully, I'm getting better.

Everything I've done in recovery — the hard work, the embarrassing confessions, the humiliating realizations — has been worth it to realize that I'm loved and that I don't have to be at my own funeral to hear the caring words that are so dear to me now.

Hope is amazing. Hope that this current reality is real and improving is enough to make me cry. Again.



I want to be loved like that

I want to be loved like that

A promise, you can't take back

If you're gonna love me

I want to be loved like that

–Shenandoah, “I Want to Be Loved Like That"



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