Robin Williams' death hit me hard, just as the death of Phillip Seymour Hoffman did earlier this year. My partner Herb showed me a James Lipton interview with Robin Williams. Lipton asked, "If heaven exists, what would you like God to say when you arrive at the pearly gates?" Robin Williams replied, "There's seating near the front. The concert begins at 5. It will be Mozart, Elvis, and one of your choosing. Or if heaven exists, just to know that there's laughter. That would be a good thing. Just to hear God go, 'Two Jews walk into a bar...'"
Even though he lived just a few miles south of me, I never met Robin Williams. His neighbors seem unanimous in their recollection of him as someone who was unfailingly kind, generous and humble.
Yet, we hear the stories of "demons" that haunted him. Depression. Addiction. As Margaret Rutherford said, "You never have a comedian who hasn't got a very deep strain of sadness within him or her. Every great clown has been very near to tragedy."
So where is this great clown now? What happens after death? After someone takes his or her own life?
I'm not a Roman Catholic, and I don't believe in purgatory. It's always seemed like one of the oddest among many odd doctrines. I simply wrote it off as silliness...until I read Ronald Rolheiser's Forgotten Among the Lilies: Learning to Love Beyond Our Fears. There I read these words about purgatory and praying for the dead:
"Purgatory is not a place separate from heaven, a place you go in order to be punished for your sins so as to prepare you for heaven. Purgatory is the pain of entering heaven...
By praying for the dead we share with them the adjustment to a new life (which includes the pain of letting go of this life). In our prayers for the dead, we offer encouragement and love to them as they, just born from the womb of the earth, adjust to a new life...
Purgatory should not be understood as a place distinct from heaven. It is rather the pain of entering heaven and of being embraced by perfect love when we ourselves are less than perfect. Love itself can be a painful experience." pp. 277, 281
I believe that our essence is enfolded in The Essence now and beyond death, and we remain energetically connected with everything and everyone now and beyond death. So, it makes sense to me and is my practice to send positive energy/prayer to those transitioning to Perfect Love.
Is Robin Williams in purgatory/heaven? I'd prefer to say he is preparing for a new role and would benefit from loving support as he adjusts. Whether we call it heaven or purgatory or just Mystery, I can only imagine that what comes after death is as wonderful and jolting as being born into this world.
Perhaps we should also say a prayer for heaven. From what I know of Robin Williams, I think they are in for quite an adjustment too.