Hearing the news about Robin Wililams' death this past week hit me like a dump truck. It felt like losing a family member. I grew up watching "Mork & Mindy" and remember as a kid being so amused by his "nanu nanu's", and inspired by other characters that he played over the years like Good Morning Vietnam, Dead Poet's Society, and Good Will Hunting. Robin's energy was so raw and full of life. It pains me to imagine what must have been going through Robin's heart and mind when he made that fatal step. I just couldn't stop thinking about it all week, and it surfaced both felt and unfelt emotions around two suicide deaths that have happened close to me in the past five years, one of my step Grandfather Bill Griffin, and the other of my friend Ashley Taylor.
My Step Grandfather, Bill Griffin died from an overdose of pain pills in a Palm Springs bathtub hotelroom not far from his house. He was in his early 70's, sufferring from all sorts of pain, including acute pain in his back and knees, plus financial, and spiriual pain. In the 80's, after his two kids were grown, Bill came out of the closet as a homosexual, and I don't think he ever forgave himself for this. While I could only imagine how tough it was for the family at the time, with all family disruption and stigma, time does have a wonderful way of healing even the deepest of wounds. For almost ten years, ending in 2008, we had a family tradition of spending Thanksgiving with Bill every year in Palm Springs. In fact, it was my favorite time of the year, being in the desert with this 'non-nuclear' family situation that I learned to live with and love.
In April, 2010 I vividly remember my Step Dad Kevin calling me with the news that Bill was in the hospital and in bad shape. The hotel housekeeper found him in the bathtub the morning after he overdosed and there was a note that Bill had left in the room with instrucitons for Kevin to be called and the paramedics were called and managed to get Bill to the hospital and attempt to pump his stomach and revive him, but it was too late. He made it to the hospital critical condition and never made it out.
.This is Bill sometime in the 80's. Bill had the best laugh, loved full heartedly, and it was so sad for our family when he died. This is my Step Dad Kevin being brave and putting Biil's ashes out to sea in Ventura.
The year prior, in 2009, my friend Ashley Taylor died of asphyxiation in her bedroom in the San Fernando Valley. Ashley was the little sister of my friend Jesse Taylor, and the first cousin to my friends Joel & Scott Owen from The Pawnshop Kings. Over the years Ashley and I became friends via common close circle of friends. She was always at the church services, parties and shows that I was at, and over the years we enjoyed many fond memories. From Brian Sadler's themed color parites, to the events that I would throw at the Pasadena Jazz Institue, Ashley always had so much joy and love in her heart, so hearing the news of her passing was so out of character, out of the blue, and shocking.
Ashley had the brightest light.
For me, reflecting on these people that I now miss so much, is so bittersweet. Thinking of the laughs, the wonderful events that brought us together, from family events with Bill to fun friend parties with Ashley, to inspiring films with Robin, I can't help to be reminded what a strange trip this life that we find ourselves on really is. It is even harder for me to imagine what must have been going through their minds and hearts when they each passed away.
The ticking of the clock gets louder the older I get, and I am reminded just how precious every moment truly is. Moments of time, like grains of sand, move through our hands. As i grow in the awareness of my consciousness, I find myself more and more, momenet by moment, at a crossroads. It's the battle between the upstream less traveled ''left handed path" of consciousness, reflection, & fullness of feeling VS. the downstream 'right handed path' go-with-the-flow of oblivion and unconsciousness. It is with gratitude in my heart and conviction and courage that I find myself able to find the guts to step left, and feel these unpleasant sad, scary, and unknown feelings - and walk with courage towards a place of peace and acceptance.
As I walk to towards these spiritual places I have a strong sense that there is a power greater than me. I'm learning to sense the moments more. Like when I watch the sun rise, or when the waves remind me of how powerful the ocean is. Or when I'm taking time to slow down cook some vegtables that I grew in my garden, play music, or somehow find a way to bite my tongue when someone that deserves my worst still gets my best.
It is in these moments that I find peace, grace, and mercy - and I am convinced that this is where my friends find themselves safely now. I miss you, my friends, Robin, Bill, & Ashley - and I wish upon a star that someday we shall meet again.