O Captain! My Captain!

Once upon a time the music died.

Yesterday, the laughter died.

For over twenty-four hours I’ve been trying to find ways to come to terms with the death of Robin Williams.

I’ve lost family members over the years, some of them far too young, but most of them older, and with a full life behind them. I cannot say that Robin Williams did not live a full life, but I do feel his loss in a way I haven’t felt the loss of a person with celebrity status before.

I spent last night with memories leaking from my eyes and leaving silver trails upon my cheeks. Early memories of watching Mork and Mindy on the old black and white television in the basement of the Fort Collins house, memories of all the times I got to hear Robin talk about his struggles with depression and substance abuse and how he always seemed to come out on top.

How many times did he come out on top before there was no strength left to push past the darkness?

I don’t talk much about my own darkness, but it’s been there for so many years. Most of the time, it’s just a quiet little speck in the corner of my mind biding its time and whistling its sombre tunes. Then there are moments when grows, a seething, all encompassing mass that fills out every crevice of my being and weighs me down like so many stones around my ankles.

These are the days it’s hard to get out of bed, to move, to think beyond the next breath.

I don’t like talking about it, honestly. I don’t like letting it out into the light that sometimes my darkness feels overpowering.

I imagine Robin may have had perfectly enjoyable evening. He may have laughed, spent time with his family, watched a little television. Maybe he talked a little about the upcoming sequel to Mrs. Doubtfire. Who knows for certain.

He may have been covering the darkness that had been growing inside him again or maybe lunged when he wasn’t ready for it. The only person who knows what was happening at that moment was Robin. We are all left with a profound sense of loss.

Some of us are mad – some of us cry foul that he could have been so selfish. I do not harbor such feelings, though it is understandable if others do. Media, I feel, gets suicide wrong on so many levels. It’s not about wanting to be dead – when I was in a bad spot during my teen years I certainly didn’t want to be dead, but I couldn’t think of another way to make everything stop.

Suicide, in my experience, is the desire to find some peace and rest in a world that (you feel) won’t allow you to do so. It’s the relief in thinking that maybe you can finally put your head down on the pillow and close your eyes and everything will finally just stop.

It’s not rational, it’s not logical. It feels like the only way, and when it happens, when that decision is made, there is a flood of relief that flows out to your fingertips and you can, for the moment, relax because you know what’s about to happen.

This isn’t how everybody feels – I can’t pretend to know anything about anybody else.

I think Robin let out pieces of that darkness when he could. The Widower in The Fisher King always makes my heart ache to see. It was brilliant, and wonderful. His performance was spot on and it made me cry. There were pieces of that darkness in other works as well. Good Will Hunting, where he finally got his Academy Award, let it out in little pieces, One Hour Photo, while disturbing, was also parts of his darkness.

I want nothing more than to have some final words with the man, even if I’d never spoken to him before in my life.

I would say thank you. I would give him a hug and let him know that his own strength had given me strength in other parts of my life. I wish that I could have given him some of my strength.

I wish that he wasn’t gone – there is a void in this world that can never be filled.

I can end only with this:

O Captain! My Captain! – By Walt Whitman

O Captain! My Captain! our fearful trip is done;
The ship has weather’d every rack, the prize we sought is won;
The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,
While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring

But O heart! heart! heart!
O the bleeding drops of red,
Where on the deck my Captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead.
O Captain! My Captain! rise up and hear the bells;
Rise up—for you the flag is flung—for you the bugle trills;
For you bouquets and ribbon’d wreaths—for you the shores a-crowding;
For you they call, the swaying mass, their eager faces turning;

Here captain! dear father!
This arm beneath your head;
It is some dream that on the deck,
You’ve fallen cold and dead.
My Captain does not answer, his lips are pale and still;
My father does not feel my arm, he has no pulse nor will;
The ship is anchor’d safe and sound, its voyage closed and done;
From fearful trip, the victor ship, comes in with object won;

Exult, O shores, and ring, O bells!
But I, with mournful tread,
Walk the deck my captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead.

O Captain! My Captain!


About Micah Brown

A writer, photographer, husband and animal lover with a day job in Technology. I live with my wife, daughter, stepson, four cats, three dogs, two sheep, seven hens, two rabbits, a king snake, a crested gecko, and an albino corn snake in the wilds of Maine.
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