When we went to the National Cathedral a couple of years ago, my youngest daughter bought a t-shirt with Robin Williams’ “Top 10 reasons for being an Episcopalian.”
Yesterday, he died, apparently of suicide.
My husband hates reading statistics or stories of those suffering his own particular brand of cancer. Similarly, for those of us who have suffered from depression, news such as that of Robin’s death also reminds us of our own mortality, our own statistical risk of premature death. As sorry as we are over him, his family, his friends, we also feel a little bit sorry for ourselves, if we are honest; a little bit nervous.
Then what is the church’s role in fighting suicide and promoting health? Jesus’ disciples were given a mission of healing, a ministry of care, which we have inherited.
We might start by doing to depression what Jesus did to leprosy: destigmatizing it; daring to touch it, even to kiss it.
We might start with love.
1 Corinthians 13, the one you hear at weddings, says,
“Love is patient and kind … It is not irritable or resentful… Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends…”
I paid for that shirt. I owe it to my church, I owe it to Robin Williams to be honest about how much I identify with its author. I owe it to my neighbour to love them through their depression. I owe it to myself and to God to live with faith, with hope, with love. And when I can’t, I hope that someone else will decide that it is their job to love me, anyway.
I hope that Robin Williams knew that he was loved, when he lived and when he died. I hope that he knew that he was not alone in his disease. I have faith that he is at peace. I hope that his family receives the love they need to survive his loss.
And I am very sorry.