Robin Williams’ suicide by hanging in August 2014 ignited a masterclass in reckless media speculation worldwide.
British tabloid The Sun made his recent trip to Alcoholics Anonymous anything but anonymous. The Daily Mail claimed Williams was going bankrupt in one of the more irresponsible bits of reporting on his death. Channel 4 News apologized for using an excerpt of Williams’ film Good Morning, Vietnam in which he says “get a rope and hang me”. Radio station Talksport apologized after presenter Alan Brazil said he didn’t have a lot of sympathy for Williams and would have been sadder if he had died naturally.
It was Lewy body dementia that had hijacked every crevice of Williams brain, a disease that affected his thinking, memory and movement control. Victims can also suffer from hallucinations, cognitive struggles, depression, and mood swings.
On Tuesday, Williams’ widow Susan Schneider spoke with Today‘s Hoda Kotb about the new documentary Robin’s Wish that captures the comedian’s final days battling the crippling disease.
When Robin Williams died in 2014 the world was shocked, but few had any idea about the real circumstances surrounding his tragic death. Now, a new documentary reveals the truth about the heroic battle Williams and his wife, Susan, were fighting behind the scenes. pic.twitter.com/5NGOxAdrC9
— TODAY (@TODAYshow) September 1, 2020
Susan said her husband told her that he just wanted to “reboot” his brain and expressed the pain they both experienced fighting an “invisible monster.”
“I was called in to sit down to go over the coroner’s report. They sat me and down and said he essentially Robin died of diffused Lewy body dementia. They started to talk about the neurodegeneration. He wasn’t in his right mind.”
“I was relieved it had a name. Robin and I had gone through this experience together, really being chased by an invisible monster. And it was like whack-a-mole with the symptoms,” she said. “I left there with a name of the disease, the thing that Robin and I had been searching for.”
Williams’ insomnia got so bad that a doctor ordered he and Susan sleep in separate beds, to which Susan claims her husband responded, “Does this mean we’re separated?”
“This was a man who was incredibly rich and deep and versed in so much about humanity and culture, and his humor was like this secret weapon,” Schneider Williams recalled of Robin. “There were so many times when he would see someone needed a lift, and then he would just inject a little bit of humor in just the right way to make a difference.”
This sentiment jibes with a story I wrote last year recalling how Robin responded in the wake of friend and actor Christopher Reeve falling off a horse and paralyzing himself from the neck down.
Williams was reportedly the first person to visit Reeve in the hospital, dressing up like a German doctor and insisting that Christopher turn over so that he could be given a proctology exam.
Reeve was later say that he wanted to die before Robin flung the door open. His friend gave him hope.
This wasn’t an errant good deed from Williams, this was a lifetime mantra. Susan Schneider confirmed it.
“I asked him, ‘When we get to the end of our lives and we’re looking back, what is it we want to have done?’ Without missing a beat, he said, ‘I want to help people be less afraid,‘” she said. “I thought it was beautiful. And I said, ‘Honey, you’re already doing that. That’s what you do.’ And that is pretty great.”
“The things that matters are others, way beyond yourself. Self goes away. Ego, bye-bye. You realize there are a lot of amazing people out there to be grateful for and a loving God. And that’s what life’s about.”
Hug a loved one, folks.
*Holding back tears intensifies*