"When Robin Williams smiled his whole face smiled … except for his eyes. Williams' eyes twinkled, moistened, saw right through you, but never smiled. His eyes informed us something else was going on, something deeper; that the character was holding something back, a touch of madness, a secret, and the secret wasn't a very happy one."
For all the many laughs and smiles Robin Williams brought to my life over the years, that description of his twinkling, knowingly sad eyes is how I always see him in my mind's eye. It's the look you see in Euphegenia Doubtfire's eyes and hear in her voice in my favorite scene from "Mrs. Doubtfire":
That scene touched me when I initially saw it back in 1993, but it truly caught and captured my heart a couple years ago when I watched it again through the eyes of a divorced parent.
No matter how amicable (or appropriate) a divorce may be, there is heartache at its center. And there are obstacles and hurts a child of divorce encounters that a parent doesn't always have the ability to fix or words to make right. What I love about this scene is that Mrs. Doubtfire doesn't simply gloss over that, but instead acknowledges it, then gently assures 'dear Katie' -- and all of us -- "But if there's love, dear... those are the ties that bind, and you'll have a family in your heart, forever." That scene reminds us that those we hold dear are never truly lost.
The movie, as a whole, reminds us how easy it is to get caught up in petty slights and resentments and forget to let love be our guide. And I don't mean that solely in the context of divorce or parenting. We forget it in the way we treat our extended family, our friends, our co-workers, our fellow man. Even in the wake of Williams' sad death, people who share in their grief over his loss can't quite find it in their hearts to allow others to grieve and/or find meaning in it in their own way.
Then again, I've seen a number of people in the past few days, whether in response to this, or other world events, exhorting others to set down their knives for a bit, and show a little kindness instead. We could all benefit from such an effort.
In all the commentary I've seen on Robin Williams from those who actually knew or met him, a common thread has run: That he was a truly kind man. Whatever demons may have haunted him, whatever sadness lurked within his twinkling eyes, Williams managed to treat most people he encountered with genuine warmth and kindness. (On top of making them laugh. Or cry, when the moment called for it.)
What a blessing. And a dearly needed reminder. I don't imagine I'm alone in saying I take some comfort in Euphegenia Doubtfire's parting words: "All my love to you, poppet, you're going to be all right... bye-bye."