Krista Tippett shared the following words on the On Being Facebook page this morning:
Upon hearing the news of Robin Williams, I offer these closing words from Jennifer Michael Hecht's book "Stay":
"None of us can truly know what we mean to other people, and none of us can know what our future self will experience. History and philosophy ask us to remember these mysteries, to look around at friends, family, humanity, at the surprises life brings — the endless possibilities that living offers — and to persevere. There is love and insight to live for, bright moments to cherish, and even the possibility of happiness, and the chance of helping someone else through his or her own troubles. Know that people, through history and today, understand how much courage it takes to stay. Bear witness to the night side of being human and the bravery it entails, and wait for the sun. If we meditate on the record of human wisdom we may find there reason enough to persist and find our way back to happiness. The first step is to consider the arguments and evidence and choose to stay. After that, anything may happen. First, choose to stay."
In 1988, it was my intent to choose the path Robin William's took. In January, 2008 I wrote a piece titled 'The Rope' ... I share excerpts from it in hopes that my journey, my story, may give hope to someone, that there can be another ending; that we are not alone, and that even in the deepest, darkest moments ... choose to STAY. In 1988, I didn't have the courage to STAY but somehow, it wasn't my time to go, and so I share my story ... This is my story. I believe many others share a similar story.
I clasped a bottle of sleeping pills in one hand. In the other hand, a Bud light. I hear the water filling up the bathtub. I have reached the end of the rope. The palms of my hands, once blistered from hanging on, had callused. My exit plan – pop the sleeping pills, fall asleep, drown in the bath tub and never wake up. Let go of the rope. Finally, let go.
Images of my father flash before me. Images of him catching me. The four year old in me smiles, remembering moments in his arms. How fun it was to play with his glasses. How safe it felt in his arms. The 22 year old is tired. There’s no more fight left. The threads holding the rope are coming apart.
And so, that night, I execute on my plan – pop the pills, and fall asleep; my body submerged in the bathtub. Alone, in a hotel room with stale air. The lights go out. I am, finally, letting go.
“Nothing.” I respond to them, as sadness fills my heart remembering the young adult whose palms, scorched from blisters and tired from the fight, decided that letting go was the only exit. “Nothing,” I say, as I remember the protective layer that encased by battered heart. I just wanted the pain to end. I just wanted to rest. I just wanted to emerge from the darkness.
Somehow, someway my submerged body was air lifted out of the bathtub onto the queen size bed. Remnants of all I had ingested the past 24 hours had created a drunken pathway, from the bathtub to the bed. A deathly stench consumed the room. Somehow, someway, I took those steps – I don’t remember. I have imagined angels lifting me out of the water. I have imagined my father, gently carrying me to the bed, whispering to me “not yet baby, not yet.” As I realize I am alive and my plan has failed, the stale air is replaced with a stench of defiance.
I’m in my forties now. What happened that night remains a mystery to me. The unfolding of the “why” has been my life’s journey. Mistakes and questions have become my friends. In the midst of winter, when layering is what’s comfortable, I shed layers to keep warm; I strive for authenticity, warmth and truth found only at my core. I am learning to revel in the mystery, and in the questions. I am learning that there are bright colors in the darkness. I am learning there are millions of threads, that make up strands, which in turn make a rope. I am learning that every thread connects me to something, someone, or some purpose; as we find common threads and re-build strands from worn out threads, we strengthen the rope of life. At 22, my tired, callused hands let go of the one remaining tattered strand, as I danced at the doorsteps of death, only to fall straight into a hammock, handcrafted from a mesh of rope. At 22, I fell straight into the arms of my father, and into the hammock of life.
In 1988, I didn't want to stay. For whatever reason, I survived. And after a week at Barnes Hospital in St. Louis (interestingly, it was the same hospital where my father died when I was 4 years old), and the kindness and compassion of a young psychiatric intern who befriended me at the hospital, I left and attended my first AA meeting. My healing journey began, and my healing journey continues.
So today, I remember and honor Robin Williams for the life he lived. Thank you Robin for the gifts you gave to this world. And may your death shine a light on a topic (suicide) often swept under the carpet. And out of your darkness, may your light shine on in the spirits of so many whose hearts and lives you have touched.