On August 11th, 2014 comedian and actor Robin Williams tragically took his life. In the weeks, months and years that followed the Internet has been ablaze with articles, conversations, and theories about why he made the choice he did.
While we all anticipate the intense feelings and emotions of those that were close to someone when they pass – friends and family members that have lost someone that held an important role in their daily lives – there was one woman who found herself hit hard by the news of Williams’ death.
Sitting outside with her children when the alert came through on her phone, Kate Lyon Osher was heartbroken to learn of the news. Osher wasn’t related to Williams, nor was she someone he got together with for coffee on a quiet Sunday afternoon, however, Williams had impacted her life in a deep and meaningful way.
In 2002, Osher experienced a serious loss when her first husband Greg took his own life. Dealing with the heavy emotions that come with grief is different and unique for each person. While some respond by choosing to remain at home in the safety of everything that reminds them of their loved ones, others feel the need to get away to collect their thoughts and work through their emotions. Osher decided to embark on a ‘travel quest,’ scattering Greg’s ashes in the various locations that he had requested.
Her traveling took her through LAX and she quickly learned that the heightened security post 9/11 wasn’t going to make it easy to travel with her Tupperware container of her husband’s ashes. One TSA agent made it particularly hard. In an article for The Mighty Osher described the situation:
“…at LAX one afternoon I found myself on the receiving end of an agent with a power trip like no other. After several threats telling me I was going to have to toss the ashes and me going ballistic and falling into hysterics and finally having a real cop come in and look at the death certificate I always carried with me, I made it into the airport bar still crying and clutching my little container.”
Seated on her own at a corner table, Osher was approached by a calm voice and the comfort of a hand upon her shoulder. While she immediately recognized the voice, she couldn’t believe that Robin Williams himself would take the time to stop and check on a complete stranger like herself, and yet here he was! “Miss, I just want to be sure you are OK. I see you are traveling alone, and I saw what happened, and I just really want to be sure you are OK,” he explained, offering her the comfort she so badly needed in that difficult moment.
She shared her story and that of Greg’s life and passing. He responded with, “Addiction is a real bitch. Mental illness and depression are the mother of all bitches. I am so sorry for all the pain your husband was in. I’m so sorry for the pain you are in now. But it sounds like you have family and friends and love. And that tips the scale a bit, right?”
Realizing that they were on the same flight, he walked her to the gate and they kept one another company. She described the experience, stating, “He was a gentle soul. He made us laugh, and he made us cry. He made us feel with his craft. He was honest about his demons. He was open about his mistakes and his faults. He was obviously in pain.”
Leaving her with a warm hug as they went their separate ways, Robin Williams was the light that she needed on what had quickly become a dark day. He was her shoulder to cry on, her listening ear and a source of comfort and understanding. His kind and caring nature touched her in a way that many would never even consider doing for a stranger they encountered in an airport, and he did it with a smile on his face.
An incredible man full of so much love. The world lost a bright light that day in August. In the words of Osher, “Rest in peace, Mr. Williams. May you find the peace that eluded you here and may you keep the angels laughing.”