Some people mark their place in the world, bookmark the pages for others to follow
We read a lot about people who pass, people who have left their mark in their work, people who have touched our lives. We are saddened when it breaks on the news how someone has passed — be it illness, an overdose or as we wake this morning we see suicide — a symptom of another illness — we must not forget that. A terrible illness.
When I saw this morning that Robin Williams had died, I actually cried. I don’t know him, but I have always been a great fan and what he leaves behind are films and moments that have touched me.
There are so many of his films I love it is hard to mention just a few, but if pushed, the ones that left their mark profoundly on my soul were Dead Poets Society, Good Will Hunting and might seem odd, but the lesser known Patch Adams.
Because they all tapped into something, about life, about who we are and have in them some lines that have stayed with me and must, in some way, have fed into my own writing, what I wanted it to do.
Dead Poets Society I remember from years ago and it’s one simple line that I think captures the essence of everything, whispered, not forgotten: “Carpe Diem. Seize the day. Make your lives extraordinary.”
I like to think this has driven me in my own life and my own writing
Good Will Hunting had a huge influence when I said I wanted to write; I wanted to leave behind a job I hated and follow my dream. There are many moments that stay with me from this film. I remember when Robin William’s character talks to Matt Damon’s character about his dead wife. Just a few little words many of you may have missed — he talks about when she was sick, how visiting hours stop applying to you. Yeah I know that feeling.
If I asked you about love, you’d probably quote me a sonnet, but you’ve never looked at a woman and been totally vulnerable. Known someone that could level you with her eyes. Feelin’ like God put an angel on Earth just for you, who could rescue you from the depths of hell. And you wouldn’t know what it’s like to be her angel, to have that love for her be there forever. Through anything. Through cancer. And you wouldn’t know about sleepin’ sittin’ up in a hospital room… for two months, holding her hand, because the doctors could see in your eyes… that the terms “visiting hours” don’t apply to you. You don’t know about real loss, ’cause that only occurs when you love something more than you love yourself. I doubt you’ve ever dared to love anybody that much.
Powerful stuff and it keeps on coming.
Remember that wonderfully improvised scene when he talks about what he remembers about his wife, farting in her sleep? But there is one line that stands out when I wanted to leave my job, stick my fingers up to corporate world is when Ben Affleck tells Matt Damon’s character:
Every day I come by your house and I pick you up. And we go out. We have a few drinks, and a few laughs, and it’s great. But you know what the best part of my day is? For about ten seconds, from when I pull up to the curb and when I get to your door, ’cause I think, maybe I’ll get up there and I’ll knock on the door and you won’t be there. No goodbye. No see you later. No nothing. You just left. I don’t know much, but I know that.
I used to tell myself after Lee died, and I hated my job, seeking solace in my writing — one day I won’t be here. I won’t show up for work, because I’m too busy living my dream … and what do you know?
Maybe Robin Williams did that — just left without goodbye
Patch Adams some might say a little twee but it is based on a true story. A doctor who said illness can be endured, should I say lives even saved by positive thinking. There is a line when the mature student doctor is accused of ‘excessive happiness’. I was accused of the same thing in one of my day jobs. For being too positive? Come on. I was in trouble from the Doom Cops for having a smiley face drawn on the hard helmet we had to wear on the processing plant (it was a manufacture site) and for drawing faces on the whiteboard saying have a wonderful day and the like. Yeah really — not making it up. When I told the guys on the factory floor, and I am being totally serious here, next morning every man had a smiley face on his hat! Right back at the management on that one.
But joking aside the message in that film is one that’s very dear to my heart. Happiness is the key to good medicine. Watch it if you haven’t.
You treat a disease, you win, you lose. You treat a person, I guarantee you, you’ll win, no matter what the outcome.
I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where. I love you straightforwardly without complexities or pride. I love you because I know no other way than this. So close that your hand, on my chest, is my hand. So close, that when you close your eyes, I fall asleep.
But there’s a scene when he talks about contemplating suicide after his girlfriend dies:
So what now, huh? What do you want from me? Yea, I could do it. We both know you wouldn’t stop me. So answer me, please. Tell me what you’re doing. Okay, let’s look at the logic. You create man. Man suffers enormous amounts of pain. Man dies. Maybe you should have had just a few more brainstorming sessions prior to creation. You rested on the seventh day, maybe you should have spent that day on compassion.
[a rock tumbles down the cliff]
Hunter Patch Adams: You know what? You’re not worth it.
[he walks away]
He sees a butterfly, his symbol for her, it’s a poignant moment.
So maybe this time he wasn’t able to walk away, seize the day, or perhaps he did just that — left the room without saying goodbye, but is in a happy place now. But he will be so missed, even those of us who didn’t know him.
And his words will remain long after the book is closed and the credits have rolled.
Be happy. Now.
Roll silent credits.
But the words remain. Always.