Archive for Robin Williams

Comparing That Death to This Death

Robin Williams and Matt Damon in 1997’s Good Will Hunting.

Which death is the most difficult to death with? On the list below, which person should be in “better shape” and has probably “moved on” in their life?

  • Her child was stillborn. It’s a year since the death.
  • His grandmother died from dementia. It’s a year since the death.
  • Their teen was killed in a traffic accident. It’s a year since the death.
  • Children gather to honor a father’s birthday. It’s a year since the death.
  • She lays a Christmas wreath on her husband’s grave. It’s a year since the death.

How would you rank them? (Should you rank them?)

Unfortunately, I think many folks—including me—publicly or privately rank the severity of another’s person’s situation. We compare and contrast with other facets of life: careers, homes, our child’s achievements, cars, last year’s vacation, and so forth. Advertising relentlessly reinforces judgment, from the new solar panels on the neighbor’s roof to the newest smartphone in a classmate’s hand. The people beside you or across the street or in the pharmaceutical commercial are better off than you. (Or, whew, they are a smidgen worse than you!)

If we compare the things of life, why not compare the ways of death? Read More →

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Suicide in the Deep Darkness of an April Night

Grandpa, working on his beloved ranch . . .

Grandpa, working on his beloved ranch . . .

Though not a family secret, we rarely mentioned it.

In the years before Mom’s death in 2013, I don’t recall talking with her about it. Dad, who dearly loved his father-in-law, never once discussed it with me. I suppose it spawned too many harsh memories and, inevitably, an immense sadness.

What is it? Suicide.

With my family, the memory is hyphenated: murder-suicide.

In April of 1978, likely before midnight on a cool spring evening in the California town of Merced, my grandfather slept alone in his bed. His wife of a few years—not my grandmother—entered the room. She gripped a pistol. She shot Grandpa at point blank range in the head. Several times.

Murder.

She exited their bedroom, retreated along a hallway, crossed through several rooms, and finally settled onto a chair in a different part of the house. Seconds or moments or maybe even a half-hour later, she pulled the trigger again.

Suicide.

The woman who murdered Grandpa and then took her own life entered my grandfather’s life after Grandma’s untimely death. Mutual friends introduced them. Did Grandpa fall in love with her? As a widower, was he was lonely and vulnerable? Maybe she schemed to wrap him around her finger? Or did their ill-fated relationship just happen as so many relationships do? But at some point, something changed. To me, way back then, in a time focused on seminary and starting a career in ministry, she seemed like an okay person. Nearly everyone seems normal until they are not.

Why did she squeeze that trigger multiple times in the deep darkness of an April night? Read More →

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