This is hard. While I’m not typically one who gets invested in the lives of celebrities, the loss of iconic actor Robin Williams feels… personal. I dread the ache — the constant dull, heavy pang — welling up in my chest  as it might if this was a person who had been in my life … who had been a part of my narrative.

But, then again, I suppose you could say Robin was. Perhaps it is because my brother, sister, and I watched Mrs. Doubtfire and Jumanji so many times growing up that they are woven into the fabric of our bond as siblings. Or because Robin’s Adrian Cronauer from Good Morning, Vietnam made me want to be a broadcast journalist (the kind who leaves it all on the table).

How about the fact that I know every word Batty Koda utters in Fern Gully and still think Aladdin‘s Genie is one of the greatest animated characters of all time?

It’s because Dead Poets Society set my spirit on fire and gave me the courage to make my life extraordinary. It’s because Good Will Hunting inspired me to take more chances. And it’s because Patch Adams reminded me that there is bad in the world, sure, but there’s also so much good.

On a seemingly universal level, Robin Williams was someone people folded into their lives like a trusted friend. He made us laugh. He made us cry. He made us laugh until we cried. Marcel Proust once said, “Let us be grateful to people who make us happy, they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.” That’s what Robin was, wasn’t he?

A charming gardener. A tiller of smiles. A person who cultivated our beings and made us feel like better people, because he made us believe in a world full of joy and filled with laughter.

I never got the opportunity to interview Robin, but I like to think that if I had that the conversation would have flowed easily. That it would feel familiar, and we would have settled into it like old friends. But since I didn’t have the chance to speak with him then, I’m left only with the words I can say to him now:

O captain! My captain! You will be missed.

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