‘Carve your name on hearts, not tombstones. A legacy is etched into the minds of others and the stories they share about you.’ Shannon L. Alder
When Robin Williams died last week the world lost a tremendous talent. Yet, in the days that have followed we have been given more of him than we ever had before. As I have read and watched the many tributes being shared, like so many others, I have been deeply moved by the first hand accounts of his abject kindness to others. From fledgling comedians, to child actors, to news reporters, to every day folks on the street- it seems most who had a personal encounter with him have a story to share. Those stories all have a common theme which paints a picture of someone who let kindness and humility lead in his life. Even though he is gone in body, the ‘feel goods’ that he always gave us in his living, have gone right on rippling through us with his demise. Even the sadness of his loss has been tempered by the huge amount of joy people have when recalling his impact on their lives. THAT is a well lived life.
When we ponder death by suicide, it is hard not to focus in on the horribly painful state of mind that one must experience in order to complete the act. But if we lean into what we know about death from the vast amount of Near Death Experience (NDE) research out there (including research done on those who have attempted and survived suicide) we can surmise that even if Robin Williams’ last moments on this earth were dark, his first moments in that next world must have been blinding- in the very best of ways.
It is estimated that about 800 people per day, in the United States alone, have what is known as a Near Death Experience. An NDE occurs after being pronounced clinically dead and then being brought back to life usually through medical resuscitation. The vast majority of those who have an NDE report that one of the most powerful aspects, is what is known as a ‘life review.’ A life review is a time when we look back at our lives through the eyes of others. Many NDE’ers describe that during their life review, they are not judged by an outside force, but instead led to feel the same emotions that they made others feel. Most NDE’ers describe this as being the most transformational aspect of their entire experience.
Think about this notion for a moment, and then apply it to Robin Williams. Consider how he made YOU feel. Now ponder for a moment all of those intimate tribute stories that we have been hearing, and consider how he made all of those who knew him personally feel. And lastly, consider how he made the world at large feel over the span of his 40 year love affair with mankind that began with an alien named Mork.
If we consider the amount of joy this man gave humanity, it is hard to imagine the overwhelming sense of love and laughter that must have hit him like a tidal wave as he departed this world. Like a giant blue genie set free, perhaps he rode that wave into the farthest reaches of the universe- laughing out loud- because he knew he had carved his name not on a tombstone, but instead on our hearts… and perhaps, in the end, that is just what he came here to do.