Wednesday, August 20, 2014

I Saw Robin Williams at Church This Sunday

Maybe someone should have warned Pastor Stan.  He IS new after all!  Barely on assignment here in rural West Virginia for a month and Robin Williams shows up at his service.  As our contemporary band closes their set of songs for the beginning of church, the congregation closes their eyes and lowers their heads for the morning prayer.  As I join in prayer, I find myself lowering my head.  Please don't tell the new pastor, but my eyes were open and, well honestly, I wasn't listening to the prayer.  Not at all.

As I stared at the floor with a heavy heart from the week's happenings, still confused about the suicide of the world-loved comedian Robin Williams, rolling out from under the chair next to me came something unexpected.  Ours is a service that happens in a bit of an unconventional setting.  My family was sitting house center under a basketball net.  Scattered around is evidence of a vibrant youth community.  Well, it's a bit of a mess; but it feels like home.

So as I sat there, quietly (which is really hard for me), praying... I notice something small rolling across the floor and stops just shy of my left sneaker.  It is a little red ball.

As I bend down to pick it up and hold it in my hand, from this little red ball emerges a blanket of comfort.  And yes, even at church (and during prayer), I am blessed with a smile across my face.

It really is a good thing no one was looking.  Because just then I looked up to God with Robin's red ball in my hand as a small tear of relief rolled out.  "There you are."  I saw Robin Williams at church this morning.

Before you find me delusional for the blog title "I Saw Robin Williams at Church This Sunday!", please bear with me.  Dan (my hotthubby) may argue that I do manage to miss many major news events, the recent alarming press of the suicide of world beloved actor Robin Williams did, indeed and sadly, not miss my radar.

How could it?

Every reporter and columnist across the globe shared Robin's sad and shocking story of suicide. After reading everything from Matt Walsh to listening to facebook tributes, I struggled with the confusion and wonder too, just like the rest of you.  My Netflix que now has every Robin Williams movie I could find.  I just did not want to let him go.

Although it is hard to imagine, my heart was even heavier two days after Robin's death when it was released that he was recently diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease.

Parkinson's Disease, or "PD", is a chronic and progressive movement disorder for which there is no cure.  Many of the visible symptoms include tremor, slowness, stiffness, and impaired balance issues. Additionally, the non-motor issues that arise from the brain's inability to produce a chemical called dopamine, can cause a patients loss of smell, sleep disorders, as well as mood disorders.  Finally, depression is an invisible element of this already debilitating disease on top of it all; yet, quite prevalent for dear Robin.

Depression.   I found myself rather irritated that people seemed to almost justify Robin's suicide with the news of his recent diagnosis of Parkinson's.  Or, maybe they were just holding on to an answer, I don't know.  But for me, I was pissed at the seemingly "now his suicide makes sense".  No...  suicide never makes sense, but you know what?  Neither does Parkinson's Disease!  Pardon my bluntness, but I've said it before, Parkinson's "sucks."  You see, although you can not see a visible tremor, PD hurts in other ways. I guess it was the invisible symptoms Robin suffered that took us all by surprise.  Even David Letterman said, "Beyond being a very talented man and a good friend and a gentleman, I am sorry I-like everybody else-had no idea that the man was in pain and that the man was suffering."

But, then I actually discovered my fear.  And this is really hard to share with you.  For you see, Susan Schneider (Robin's wife) and I share something in common as well as Diane Rehm, of NPR, who recently lost her husband after a long battle with PD.  In fact, her husband John didn't want to live another day. Our husbands all have Parkinson's.

Suddenly, I was scared.  Depression comes as a partner to Parkinson's just as I am married to it as well.  If these famous women suffered the loss of their loved husbands, what does that mean for me? Although, my husband is not depressed, he remains involved and participates with depression research through the Michael J. Fox Foundation at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. Would he ever reach this point in his disease?  God, I hope not.

And if so, where would he spend eternity?  Are there people in heaven who took their own lives by suicide?  Not to sound crazy, but I was worried where Robin Williams was spending eternity.  How could a man, who played Patch Adams (the humorous and whimical physician) with such talent to make me laugh one second and cry the next spend eternity in any place other than the loving hands of his creator, God?

Is suicide an "unforgivable sin"?  No... at least I don't believe it to be.  After investigating this extensively, I stumbled across a site with none other than that red ball again (  What does the Bible say?  "The Bible tells us that at the moment of salvation, a believer's sins are forgiven (John 3:16; 10:28). When we become a child of God, all of our sins, even those committed after salvation, are no longer held against us."

It goes on to say that in Ephesians 2:8,
"God saved you by his grace when you believed.  
And you can't take credit for this; it is a gift from God."  
So, we are saved by God's grace, not by our own good deeds.  In the same way that our good works don't save us, our bad ones, or sins, cannot keep us from salvation" when we believe. Robin believed, and so does Dan.

Then I saw the red ball roll next to me and I knew exactly where Robin was.

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