There’s no official news yet about funeral plans for entertainer Robin Williams, who died on Monday, August 11. The 63-year-old apparently committed suicide by hanging himself. The Daily Mirror in the U.K reports he will be laid to rest in the San Francisco area in a very small, private family funeral and The Metro and other news outlets report the Westboro Baptist Church will try to picket the funeral.
Just as with the worldwide reaction to the death of Princess Diana in 1992, people are turning to private ritual gestures to express their grief over the loss of such a beloved comedian.
Thousands of fans have been leaving candles, flowers, cards and other mementos at his home, at sites where scenes from his first TV show and movies were filmed, and at his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Fellow comedians held an impromptu memorial service in San Francisco at the defunct storefront comedy club, Holy City Zoo.
News just came out today that his wife said he had early stages of Parkinson’s Disease. He was not yet ready to disclose the news publicly.
Williams starred in What Dreams May Come (1998 PG-13), a spectacular vision of what might happen to the spirit after we die. He plays Chris, a neurologist married to artist Annie. They had the perfect life until their two children die in an auto accident. Just as they are recovering from that tragedy, Chris meets an untimely death himself in another auto accident.
He goes to his own personal afterlife–a freshly drawn world reminiscent of Annie’s own artwork, still dripping and wet with paint. Chris’ afterlife is set in a lush landscape of flowers, forests, lakes and mountains, with a beautiful home. The film won a well-deserved Oscar for special effects. He’s met by a messenger named Albert (Cuba Gooding Jr.), who helps him get adjusted to his new surroundings.
If you ran the philosophy in the dialogue by an atheist who doesn’t believe in an afterlife, it sounds pretty corny. Here’s the dialogue between Albert and Chris, discussing what Chris is seeing when he wakes up in the afterlife:
Chris: “Nice place you’ve got here, Chief.”
Albert: “No, no, nice place you’ve got here!”
“Sure, you’re making all this. See, we’re all pretty insecure at first, so we see ourselves somewhere safe, comforting. We all paint our own surroundings, Chris, but you’re the first guy I know to use real paint!”
“There’s so much here she didn’t paint. Like that bird.”
“Annie gave you a start. Sort of like holding onto handrails. Now you’re creating an entire world here – from your imagination, from paintings you loved, anything you want…”
“Am I really here?”
“What do you mean by ‘you’ anyway? Are you your arm or your leg?”
“Really? If you lost all your limbs, wouldn’t you still be you?”
“I’d still be me.”
“So, what is the me?”
“My brain I suppose.”
Your brain. Your brain is a body part. Like your fingernail or your heart. Why is that the part that’s you?”
“Cause I’m sort of the voice in my head, the part of me that thinks, that feels, that is aware that I exist at all.”
Meanwhile, back in the land of the living, a depressed Annie struggles on alone and eventually takes her own life. When the news reaches Chris, he decides to traverse heaven and hell to save Annie from an eternity of despair. Annie’s personal hell is depicted by an upside-down cathedral, gray, scary and a ruined version of her earthly home. He refuses to leave her and settles down in her cold, dark world.
Miraculously, the story does have a happy afterlife ending. I’m hoping that Robin Williams’ spirit is in a place of love and light, reflective of the happiness and joy he brought to so many through his work.