Let me start this off by saying that I don’t do eulogies and I don’t do tribute pieces. I wrote a eulogy once when I was 19 and spoiler alert: it sucked. Poor guy I was speaking about probably wanted to turn over in his casket. That being said, there has been a lot going through my mind over the last 20 or so hours since news broke that our very own Robin Williams took his own life.
When I think of Robin Williams, I think of my childhood. I think of the Genie, of Peter Pan, of Mrs. Doubtfire, of Patch Adams. So it might not be a personal loss, but it is a profound one. It is a loss of childhood, and I have a feeling that watching Aladdin is going to carry a sort of weight with it now.
This isn’t meant to be a tribute or tearful hommage to his life, but in writing this I hope to at least salvage from the brokenness he left behind and build some sort of quiet understanding of his lost battle. Because it’s something that isn’t new, and it’s a loss that we have all known before, in some small way, whether personal or impersonal.
I’m writing this because what happened to Robin has happened to so many more, millions more. His story is much the same just as it is different. He had monsters, some of them we knew and some of them we didn’t. And whatever they did to him, they did to others, and they will continue to do to many more. I won’t presume to know what kinds of monsters followed him throughout his life, but I will say this: I understand the fight. Not HIS fight, but THE fight. Because it is a fight. It’s a tragic one, whatever the outcome, because it changes you, it eats you, it gnaws at your skin and your heart and your brain and your bones. It makes the things that are important, that mean something, feel like trivial footnotes. It takes your hand and leads you to darkened corners, and in these corners you find your solace in other monsters, and they pretend that they know you, that they understand you.
I know these things because I know monsters. And I bet you know monsters, too. The failure is not in knowing they’re there, or that they’re hurting you, or that they’re following you. The failure is in letting them win. And we let them win every day. Yesterday, they won, and for that I am sorry. For that, millions and millions are sorry.
As an artist, I believe that artists see the world differently. Not necessarily in a better or worse way. It’s just different. And people express the way they see the world in whatever way they know how; through their work, their play, their art. It’s all expression. But artists are burdened with expressing their world in a medium that weighs heavy on hearts, including their own. We write to convey the world. we paint to convey the world, and Robin made people laugh to convey the world. But sometimes the burden is too much, sometimes we lose the greatest of us, but not before they can leave that special footprint, that reminder that they were here, that what they did meant something, that we can run our hands over it and think “yeah, I’ll do this too. I’ll pick up where you left off. Everything’s ok. Everything’s ok.”
To make the point of this clear: please, if you are hurting, or feel like you might hurt yourself in any way, call someone. Text your best friend. Write a Facebook post. Retweet your favorite celebrity. Play a video game. Read a book. Find an outlet. But please, above all else, talk to somebody. Anybody. I don’t do PSAs, but I will do one here. Suicide is never worth it. It never solves the problem, it just creates bigger ones. Ripples, wounds, eventually scars. And even though scars can be beautiful and they are a part of who we are, there are some we don’t have to have. And this is one of them.
Rest in peace, funny man. God speed.
Just over a month ago I received a phone call that one of my old friends from high school was in the hospital in a coma. Within a few hours, word had spread to just about everyone from our class. Facebook was overloaded with messages of support, with photos, with prayers. We gathered at our high school to pray and to hope. But in a few day’s time, I received another phone call, and that phone call will stay with me I think, for a very, very long time.
Her death was at once overwhelming and incomprehensible. I just sat there in my room, phone in my hand, turning it over and over. Thinking is something I do best, but this was a short circuit to the system. A cannonball to the stomach.
I hadn’t spoken to her in quite some time. Every so often we made contact again, made promises to get together and catch up. Once school is out, once work slows down, as soon as it’s the weekend. We’ll get to it. We’ll get to it. It’s age old and practiced. We’ve grown used to it. And then there was that phone call.
Since I started working in a mortuary, I’ve worked over 100 funerals. They’re routine, but they’re as much an art form as anything else. We are trained and expected to serve each family with dignity and respect, while remaining emotionally detached so as to do our job effectively. I’ve buried people from every walk of life. From the very old to the very young. I’ve even managed to remain stoic and uninvolved in the burial of children. But you can work a thousand funerals, and when it finally turns around and bites you, you’ll realize none of it ever made a difference anyway.
Her funeral looked like the many I have worked before, but it wasn’t. Those 650 mourners could have been there for any funeral, but they were there for hers. I saw almost every member of my class, whether they knew her or not, some stoic, some overcome. There was a strange unity that had fallen over us, something we’d all thought long dead, but it weighed heavy on us, it was in every hug, every holding of the hand, every strand of that silence. That pure, impassible silence in the wake of our friend, up there on that altar in a steel white casket showered under a spray of roses.
I have spent the last month picking up the pieces of a grief I never knew I could feel. That I never thought I would have to feel. Being a 20-something makes you feel a little bolder than you really are, a little wiser than you really are, and ultimately a little more invincible than you really are. Her death has shattered two false realities we have made up for ourselves. The first, that we are invincible. The second, that we have time. There is no time. We are reminded that we have no guarantees, that we need to love now, passionately, with everything that we are. Or, as Marcus Mumford says, to “love with urgency, but not with haste.”
Yesterday I went to the cemetery and stood over her grave. There is no stone yet, but there are a lovely assortment of flowers, pictures, and words of condolence. She is buried at the foot of a newly planted tree in a brand new section of the cemetery. You have a beautiful view of the rest of the grounds and of the hills just beyond. The sun hits her perfectly in the early afternoon. It warms your back. And I stood there, quiet, and I saw my shadow looming over and for a split second I had to ask myself who that was. If it was the same person that my old friend knew years ago, or if it was someone else. I still haven’t answered that question, but I have asked myself if, whoever that person is, if they’re willing to live passionately, love deeply, work hard, and fulfill their dreams. I hope all of you, my classmates, my family, my friends, can ask yourself that question. And that it is a loud, spirited, “yes.”
God speed, old friend.
Be near me when my light is low,
When the blood creeps, and the nerves prick
And tingle; and the heart is sick,
And all the wheels of Being slow.
Be near me when the sensuous frame
Is rack’d with pangs that conquer trust;
And Time, a maniac scattering dust,
And Life, a fury slinging flame.
Be near me when my faith is dry,
And men the flies of latter spring,
That lay their eggs, and sting and sing
And weave their petty cells and die.
Be near me when I fade away,
To point the term of human strife,
And on the low dark verge of life
The twilight of eternal day.
It’s a pretty valid question. Why? They’ve got the lowest payroll in the MLB, a lackluster stadium, a flippant ownership, and, well, a very young and often inexperienced ballclub. How is it possible or even logical to call yourself an A’s fan any time after 2002?
Let me tell you something; it’s fucking hard. Excruciating. Most A’s fans will tell you that they are more often than not fuming and criticizing as opposed to cheering and going out to games. I’ve loved the A’s since I was a little girl. I remember the excitement of a postseason run and the tears I cried with every elimination. Now, many years later, with Lew Wolfe and Billy Beane having virtually given up on the A’s as a team and just shuffling in minor leaguers only to trade them the second they show any value or talent, it gets hard to go out to the park and show a little love. If the owners don’t care, why should we?
Because at the end of the day, this isn’t just your average ballclub. This is a team of misfits, castaways, unproven talent that had just the right amount of chemistry to shake Oakland and the MLB to its core.
When the San Francisco Giants defied the odds and took home the World Series Championship in 2010, everyone was quick to point out the unlikely chemistry that had worked so perfectly for them. But the chemistry that made the Giants has its seeds in Oakland, as evidenced by the last decade of baseball the A’s have played. At the end of the day, teams like the Giants come out on top because at the end of the day, they’ve got deeper pocketbooks.
So why am I an A’s fan? There are a lot of answers out there and you will probably get a variety from most A’s fans, but the foundation in those answers is this:
Being an A’s fan means a lot of work. It means spending a lot of time disappointed, frustrated, and annoyed, in exchange for a sliver of time screaming loudly, jumping up and down, and donning your A’s duds for a Green October. But that time we do get, those precious years that leave us hungry and excited and driven, mean everything because it was never just a result of obvious circumstances. Never because of an MVP bat in the heart of the lineup. A seasoned/Cy Young ace on the mound. It was the result of a cohesive unit, a group of guys who just play baseball and play it well. It’s baseball made up from the budding men that take the field every day and play to the best of their abilities. Where other teams thrive on success because of money, we make up for it with heart. In any other place or means, a $55 million dollar club could never face a $132 million dollar club and expect to give them a run for their money. Only in Oakland.
I am an A’s fan because moments like this, years like this, seasons like this, remind me why I loved baseball in the first place. It isn’t about the money (nor should it ever be; I’m looking at you, NY) nor is it about how big the stadium is, how big the turn out. It’s about how well you play the game. It’s about the chemistry and camaraderie between a group of 25 men who go out there every day and give it their best. That’s what the 2012 A’s have done, and even though these last few years have tested my patience with the organization, they have reminded me that being an A’s fan is just that; being tested and coming out on top. The ownership may suck, but our boys don’t. And this year, they’ve given all of us more than we could have ever hoped for.
Thank you, boys. And whatever happens next year, or the year after, or the year after that, you’ve got a lifelong fan in me. After all, everyone loves the underdog.
A glass of whiskey. Straight.
Writerly inspiration. (I see you, thesis. Have at thee!)
For the dog to get off my bed so I can wash the sheets.
For the cat to get off my lap so I can see what I’m writing.
A glass of port. Yes, I know I’m drinking whiskey. Fuck off.
Probably a cigarette. Or three.
I’m taking suggestions for more.
I’m just saving this for future reference, come May.