Mason Phillips, MA, LMFT Candidate
I understand just how long it has been since I have written anything. Truthfully, I have been so busy that some joys (like writing for joy) get to take a back seat. Since the last time I wrote I have gotten married, finished my first year of grad-school, left my job and started a new one while beginning my final year of grad-school. Lately, though, some circumstances demand that I take some time to get online and write a piece. Brace yourself, though, as the reading material might not be best if you are wanting to have a sunny day listening to Karen Carpenter, sipping iced tea and thinking about the good old days.
It is not a secret by any means that we have lost one of the greats recently, and seeing the pictures of Robin Williams* on my various social media feeds brought me no joy as it usually should. Instead, his departure has made me feel the same grief all of you have experienced. And yes, it is grief. He was an icon for all of us to take comfort in regardless of the work that he did. So feel free to work through the grief as if it were someone you knew quite closely. It hurts.
Two days after I learned about Williams’, I was expected to assist some of my colleagues in teaching some skills on suicide prevention. The skill itself is relational in nature and suggests that if you are standing in front of someone who is exhibiting some suicidal ideation, you should ask them upfront if that is what they are intending to do and walk with them personally to a place where they can get help. It was said during the training, could these skills have stopped our favorite genie, therapist, literature professor, Neverlandian, cross-dressing nanny who was Williams from taking his own life? We cannot know and we probably never will. But, we can do something.
Recently, my friend Marty Peercy, posted a blog that I found difficult to read. You can read it here: [link no longer available].
In his post, Marty talks about personal encounters with suicide. One encounter involved a beloved community member- particularly close to Marty- who suddenly and tragically completed suicide. Marty talked about that briefly. I will elaborate.
That week, I remember Marty was living back up in Chicago and made a special trip down to Oklahoma for the memorial. I did not attend the service, but I did go to my pastor’s house where Marty was hanging out with all of our friends, cooking a communal meal as his usual style. Everybody was eating so much delicious food, laughing, and I was enjoying myself just cutting my eyes through the crowd and seeing my friend Marty after probably a year of missing him. I wished he had been in town for any other reason besides this.
At some point in the party, Marty gave some heartfelt words that I do not entirely remember. I remember they were important and they meant something to him and basically everyone in the room. I do, however, remember exactly what he told me on the front porch before I took off for the evening. Marty insisted on walking out the door with me. He told me that things get hard sometimes, but regardless of the point that sadness reaches, it is never too late to say something to anybody. I was not feeling remotely depressed, anxious, or dark. It did not matter. Marty hugged me and told me not to let the darkness takeover, but live; continue to choose life.
Back to his blog (at this point I may just be plagiarizing). He makes a statement at the bottom:
You are now on the hook.
See, that night, Marty did not need to know if I was deeply hurting or not. He just knew he was on the hook for me. And he is right. I am on the hook. You are on the hook. We are all on the hook for each other. You owe it to your loved ones to be watching and ask them if they are okay. They should do the same for you. Do not let the darkness take over; continue to choose life.
I realize how dark this has been. But know this: the optimism is that we are on the hook for each other. And with all this talk about being on the “hook” leads me to leave you with this sentiment:
Bangarang. Rest peacefully Robin. You are already far too missed.
*It has come to my attention that some news coverage and online sources have provided some images related to Williams death. As tempting as it may be to put your eyes on an image like that, it is my dutiful opinion to warn you- it will bring no closure for you. Please, at the very least, join me in quietly avoiding news providers who may try to put those images on display. Think of it as a way to respect our lost friend. I would be adventurous to say he would do the same for anyone else. Let us make the best parts of his life the memorable ones. After all he is the one who taught us some valuable lessons: “Why was language created?….To woo women of course!” (Dead Poets Society).