On Monday, August 11, 2014, Kate Lyon Osher was sitting outside with her children, playing. They were on a cart, singing “So Long, Farewell,” pretending to be sailors traveling to Ireland to pick up rubbish on their next voyage. A SMS message arrived from a close friend. Then another, followed by a news alert. And the news was both devastating and amazing. Robin Williams has passed away.
Before the sideline analysis begins about this being just another Hollywood celebrity with a litany of addictions who couldn’t get his sh%t together, Kate is here telling a small anecdote she hasn’t told anybody- not her husband, not her closest friend, not her parents, not her sister, not anyone. Since it’s too valuable to her. But the moment has come. And she feels it’s the correct time.
After Katie’s first husband, Greg, committed suicide, she embarked on a sort of global quest, sprinkling his ashes where he desired and attempting to pull her life and spirit back together as best she could. She spent a lot of time travelling between Los Angeles (LAX) and Oakland, since she was living in West Hollywood but thinking about moving to San Francisco or Marin and seeing her closest buddy at least once a month. It wasn’t always simple to get Tupperware of your late husband’s ashes past TSA screening after 9/11, and one afternoon at LAX, she found herself on the receiving end of an agent on a power trip like no other.
She made it to the airport bar still weeping and hugging her small container after repeated threats telling her she had to discard the ashes. She was going nuts and falling into hysterics, and then having a real officer come in and look at the death certificate she always kept with her. She sat at a corner table facing the wall, so nobody could see how frantic she was, with her whiskey on the rocks for comfort, when she felt a touch on her shoulder. “Miss, I just want to make sure you’re OK,” a sweet voice said. I notice you’re going alone, and I watched what occurred; I just want to make sure you’re okay.” Through her sobs, she recognized the voice, but she couldn’t believe Robin Williams was casually strolling through LAX and would stop to check if she was okay.
Katie was still sobbing that ugly cry one gets when one is trying to catch their breath, and she told him the Cliff Notes account of events. His eyes became a bit glistening. His voice became quieter. He told her that addiction is a nasty b%tch. Depression and mental disease are the mother of all b*%ches. He is deeply sorry for her husband’s suffering. He felt so sorry for her current distress. However, it appears that one has family, friends, and love. And that tipping point, right? And, because they were on the same commercial airline, he escorted her to the gate.
He has a kind heart. He made us both chuckle and weep. With his artistry, he made us feel. He was forthright about his inner troubles. He was honest about his flaws and shortcomings. He was clearly in discomfort.
The mother of all sickness is mental disease and severe sadness. Straight up.
He was always there for our veterans, our servicemen, children in hospitals, his own friends and family in need, and even a crying stranger at the airport. And Katie hasn’t yet told that he made her giggle on their way to the gate. They were mimicking folks they saw on the street. Making fun of TSA agents, particularly the one that gave her a hard time.
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But in a lighthearted way. Not offensive even though the guy totally deserved to be insulted. He complimented her on her beautiful chuckle. A lovely grin. He hugged her as they parted ways. He gave her a huge, warm bear hug with his famously hairy arms, and it sustained her. It was an experience she will never forget. That split second saved her life. And kept her going. He helped her get through one of the most painful times of her life.
He was as sweet as he was amusing. His demise is heartbreakingly terrible. That someone who offered so much light and joy to others had such inner darkness.
Mr. Williams, may you rest in peace. May you find the tranquility that has evaded you here, and may you continue to make the angels laugh.
Katie thanks him for being there for her that day. He was the perfect angel for her. And she knew he talked from personal experience, which he appreciated.
That Monday’s news was difficult for Katie to hear. It’s still difficult for her to comprehend the news.
An incredible soul! Mr. Robin Williams is truly deeply missed.