Serious Moment. It happens sometimes. And life lessons.
On a foggy Saturday morning in San Francisco recently, after a long night of writing, just back from Paris, my phone and computer came alive at 6 am. Emails, messages, texts, calls, with the totally unbelievable news that a close friend in Paris had died, the husband of one of my very close women friends. The first thing I saw was an email that gave his first name and said he had died. I only know one person by that name, but immediately rejected that possibility….it couldn’t be him….too young….I saw him only a few weeks ago….we’re all having dinner in a few weeks….not him…I tried to figure out who else I knew by that name. I opened the email and saw his wife’s name, and I felt as though an entire mountain had come crashing down on me. It was indeed the close friend which my mind flatly refused to believe could have died.
I’ve mentioned before that incredibly I have been to many funerals of young people in the last several years. I know too many young people who have died in their late teens and early twenties, car accidents, sports accidents, a young friend of my daughters who was texting on the freeway, lost control of her car and was killed at 27, a terrible cancer at 18, my own son committed suicide at 19, and horrifyingly, of his intimate circle of friends, of interesting, lively, sane young people with good jobs, good lives, and families that loved them, only one is still alive at 30. Only One. That is a terrifying statistic, and three were suicides. But I have never lost an adult friend, one of my peers. So while I have been too far too many funerals for young people, I haven’t lost any adult friends. With better health care, people live longer, but I’m also not at the age yet when people commonly die. Or maybe I’ve been lucky with my friends. The man who died, my friend/friend’s husband was 60. How was it possible? He wasn’t sick. I felt disoriented, shocked, instantly bereft. He was truly, truly one of the nicest people I’ve ever known, funny, jolly, kind, with a great sense of humor, elegant of spirit, nice to everyone, I never heard him say a mean word about anyone, ever. He did little thoughtful gestures of kindness and friendship constantly. He had a beautiful wife whom he adored, and she adored him. One of the really great marriages I know, and always nice to be with them because of it, crazy about each other after 30+ years of marriage (and that’s pretty rare today). They walked into a room and glowed, they were enjoying life and each other. 2 Lovely children. Strong family values, fun to be with, good company, people you can count on. The list of virtues is long. And in an instant it was over. Literally, every single man I know in Paris has a scooter, like a Vespa, not a big motorcycle, but a motor scooter. Men of all ages that I know have them, poor friends, rich friends. They always seem dangerous to me, but all the men complain that traffic is heavy, moves slowly, it’s hard to get through it, pollution is an issue, and a scooter is easy to park. So they have them. And lately, ‘Moto Taxis’ have become popular in Paris, where you hop on, sit on the back, put your arms around the driver and off you go. I have men and women friends who use them in order to buzz around. Scooters are common in France, Italy and a lot of Europe. Even men in their 60’s and 70’s use them, and I see women on them, and my friends often ride them behind their husbands. My friend was riding his scooter, made a turn, there was gravel, the scooter slid out of control, his helmet flew off, he hit his head on a rock, and that was it. For 3 days my friends called me, we called each other, several times. No one could believe it had happened, that this lovely man was gone, his wife heartbroken, their family shattered. It was a brutal reminder that everything can change in an instant. In a single second, your life can be over or forever changed. We all know that, in theory, but when faced with it in reality, with a friend who was here one minute, laughing and funny and loving to all, and then in that single second, the light goes out forever, and he is gone. Because of the suddenness, because he was too young, and because we all loved him and his wife, we are all struggling with this terrible, shocking reality that our friend is gone. For days, men in our circle of friends called me crying, and all the women friends of the wife. And I cried a lot. This sad news has hung over me, and a whole group of friends like a pall. And the woman who I always saw laughing and happy, and so happy with him, is now brutally and suddenly alone. I am profoundly saddened and shocked. Her life will never be the same again, in a major way, or even ours. The lessons to be derived from it are that life really can change forever, and even end, in a single second, and the other lesson is one we know too, to cherish our friends, those we love, our partners, our children, cherish every single moment we have with them, because life is so totally unpredictable. You really never know if you will see that person again. Spend time with them, enjoy them, tell them you love them, don’t let opportunities pass you by because you really never know what life has in store.
It was a bad week. Still sad over this shocking news, and probably for a long time, on the day of my friend’s funeral, we all had more shocking news. Robin Williams committed suicide that day. The whole world was shocked and felt bereft. Also too young, before his time. And I was actually fortunate to know him. A brilliant entertainer, as we all know. A really lovely person, a wonderful father. I counted back and realized that I knew him for 25 years. We weren’t close friends, but knew each other, and chatted when we saw each other at parties. He helped me with my son’s foundation. One of my daughters dated his son for 4 years, a really lovely boy. He has 3 lovely kids. And suicide and all the public attention that go with it in the case of a celebrity are so brutally hard for the family left behind. A suicide is heart shattering for any family, famous or not. But in a few days, 2 fine men were dead, one by his own hand, and the other by a terrible stroke of bad luck, and a little bit of light had gone out of the world for all of us. I am so very very very sorry for Robin Williams’ family and the terrible sadness they are living through now. The world mourns him, and his family is heartbroken.
It’s a wake up call of sorts to us all…..I will miss my lost friend so much, no gathering of friends will be as much fun without him. It will be shocking to see his beautiful wife alone, and no longer radiating joy without him……I hope that we all remember to cherish our loved ones, to tell those we care about what they mean to us, every day. Don’t put it off. Say it, live it, because that terrible single unexpected instant can happen and change everything for any of us in a flash. For Robin, for my friend Robert, let us love each other a little bit more and remember how incredibly precious and important every single moment of life is. May they both rest in peace with our love and prayers, and in great sadness, I send you so very, very much love.