When I heard the news of Robin Williams’ death on August 11, 2014, I felt it viscerally, along with so many other people around the world.

I’ve seen most of his most famous movies, but the one I thought of immediately was Dead Poet Society, a film I have often watched with English majors. The character in the film who made the greatest impression on me was Neil, the boy who takes his own life after he despairs of his parents’ lack of understanding and love. Robin Williams plays the teacher who awakens Neil’s voice as a poet only to mourn his death.

Reading Williams’ obituary through the lens of his own suicide, I went back again to the famous “Carpe Diem” passage and understood why Mr. Keating’s love for Neil comes through so clearly in the movie. Williams, who was painfully shy and went to a private school himself, must have identified with all the boys, but especially with Neil. Here’s the famous scene from the very beginning of the movie,

I think the best tribute any of us can make to Robin Williams is to Seize the Day ourselves.

My post for Not Quite Amish this week tells how a bike ride into Old Order Mennonite farm country helped me seize one day and made me think of my own epitaph.

Has any death made you more determined to live now? How?

Shirley Showalter


  1. Kathleen Friesen on August 21, 2014 at 2:34 pm

    Yes, not only seize the day, but seize the moment. Long before death paid a close visit to my life, my husband and I lived with a mantra of “live well, no regrets, I love you.” In the second half of life, I’ve chosen photography as a way to seize the moment and look for ways to be present each day. And recently I have a new mantra, “Life is good, especially today.” And it is.

    Thank you, Shirley for a timely reminder.

    • shirleyhs on August 22, 2014 at 10:17 am

      Kathleen, along with Laurie, I too love your mantra, “Life is good, especially today.”

      And your way of seizing the day has seized me often also. I love your contemplative photos. You’ve inspired me often to see and experience more in the world around me and to appreciate the beauty of the plains through your eyes.

      May you continue to draw sustenance from living in the moment and loving every day.

  2. Laurie Buchanan on August 21, 2014 at 3:29 pm

    Shirley — Carpe Diem, indeed!

    I like Kathleen’s “Life is good, especially today.” My mantra is, “Something wonderful is about to happen!” That keeps me on my toes, eyes wide open, alert and observant.

    I’m heading over to “Not Quite Amish” right now…

    • shirleyhs on August 22, 2014 at 10:19 am

      What a lovely reminder to stay in child-like wonder in relation to the world around us, Laurie. You are helping thousands of people follow your lead. I’m so glad to be one of them. Thank you.

  3. Barbara McDowell Whitt on August 22, 2014 at 11:00 am

    After Lauren Bacall’s death the same week Robin Williams died, I began imagining they had caught up with each other in the great beyond. I wonder what they talked about when they did?

    At the library last week I decided to browse in the large print books section. I almost immediately found Lauren Bacall’s single volume, By Myself and Then Some. It is a beautifully written autobiography. It reads from start to finish with no separate chapters. The Thorndike Press copy I found has a gold and brown cover with reels and strips of film. The first part, By Myself, was published in 1978, and an addendum, And Then Some, 27 years later, in 2005 when she was 70. The photos of her life are as rich as she was (is). Her spirit still lives, as does Robin’s.

    • Shirley Hershey Showalter on August 26, 2014 at 7:10 pm

      Barbara, I thought I responded to your comment earlier, but now I don’t see it. Senior moment? Maybe. Fresh Air with Terry Gross rebroadcast interviews with both Robin Williams and Lauren Bacall. You are so right that their spirits live on. Such powerful lives! The idea of writing one memoir and then publishing another 27 years later is fascinating. A number of people have written two or more memoirs, but not usually this way. I’ll have to remember to look for these books in my own library. Thanks for the tip.

  4. Michael G. Cartwright on August 22, 2014 at 11:41 pm

    Thanks, Shirley, for sharing your wisdom.

    • shirleyhs on August 24, 2014 at 9:46 pm

      Lovely to have you stop by for a visit, Michael. I’m grateful for YOUR wisdom.

  5. Richard Gilbert on August 24, 2014 at 7:34 pm

    Nice reflection, Shirley. His death hit me hard, too, especially because my father was from the same Michigan town and graduated from Williams’ alma mater there, Detroit Country Day School. Their lonely boyhoods sounded so much alike to me.

  6. shirleyhs on August 24, 2014 at 9:52 pm

    I can imagine you felt your father’s loss again too, Richard. Lonely boys with great talent have made our world a better place. We feel a great loss with their passing. They leave behind a great legacy — and a tragic hole in the universe.

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