This series is a collaboration between writer MJ Pack and Amy Venezia.
The following is purely speculation and in no way should be considered concrete facts unless future evidence proves otherwise.
I would like to begin with a brief but important disclaimer separate from our typical standards. As is common with this type of work, there will always be readers who are skeptical of our conversations — and sometimes even offended by them. This is the farthest from our intention, which I try to make clear within the message of each session. But occasionally we cover subjects who have departed this plane of existence very recently, whose loved ones are still freshly hurting from their absence. This conversation is one of those.
Having lost my own father at a fairly young age, the last thing I would want to do is cause more pain to those close to Robin Williams by sharing this with the world. And so I’d like to preface what follows by saying that I hope our words do no harm to his family, his friends, and most of all his children. Whether they believe in an afterlife, clairvoyance, or anything we say here, I hope what resonates is the underlying message. And I hope it resonates with you, dear reader, too.
It has been six months since we conducted our last conversation. Within those six months, my life — which had, for some years, been cruising along at a comfortable and predictable speed — suddenly took a sharp left turn and crashed headlong into a brick wall. I took a leap of faith and left my job to pursue new opportunities with no guarantees. My writing suffered and I began to wonder if the medical issue I’d experienced last spring had left me talentless. And then, the coup de grâce, my marriage came to an entirely unexpected end.
I spent the winter wallowing in grief, feeling sorry for myself and spending endless nights alone on the couch in my empty house. I couldn’t imagine what it would be like to ever feel human again. Despite all the support of my family and friends, things seemed pretty hopeless. 2016 was a shit year and I didn’t expect 2017 to be any different.
Amy and I drifted apart. She was busy with a lot of exciting projects and I simply didn’t have the energy or drive to put towards any new conversations. All that spiritual work I had done over the time we’d worked together went right out the window.
But I’m happy to say that as 2016 faded in the rearview, something changed. I got off the couch. I started writing again. I found new things, good things, that gave me a reason to return to the lessons I’d learned from previous conversations: loving myself instead of putting my sole worth in others, seeking beauty in every moment, not taking the little things so seriously. And just as I started to think that maybe I was ready to return to these conversations, who should send me a text message but my dear friend Amy.
After some back and forth we knew we needed to dive back in for a new session, a new subject — someone who would bring a message that was “raw and real” as Amy put it. So we settled on one who felt right, to both of us: Robin Williams.
On a windy Tuesday afternoon, I set up my MacBook and start Skype with Amy for our first conversation since Kurt Cobain.
We both look a little different since the last time we spoke. Amy’s hair is shorter and I’m no longer a blonde but a redhead.
Me: Um, forgive me if I’m a little rusty ’cause it’s been since September since we’ve done this and it’s April now.
Amy: It’s been a long time. It’s been a very long time. You look amazeballs!
Me: Thank you! I feel amazeballs!
We laugh together, all that old chemistry still running between us, before Amy guides me through a breathing exercise she says she’s been using with her own clients. She says it’s a good way to let go of all the tension in our bodies before diving into the conversation.
After we have both taken some deep breaths and cleansed ourselves of any tension or negativity, we begin.
Amy: All right. I’ll just go in and see how long it takes… and then we’ll just go from there and see what happens.
As in past sessions, Amy closes her eyes. She focuses and remains very still for a few minutes before opening her eyes and smiling.
Me: All right. Like I said, I’m a little out of practice with this so, um… trying to figure out where to begin. I guess, you had said this was — you came up with the subject of this conversation pretty fast, and so maybe just asking a question about that. Why, if he [Robin] is here, the reason that he was sort of so ready considering we’ve taken such a long break from these conversations.
Amy closes her eyes, seems to listen, and then laughs a little.
Amy: So, his immediate response — okay, I’ve gotta put this into… So his response was along the lines of that his frequent visits to me, he was afraid were going to start to be considered stalking. (laughs) He was constantly coming, and I will agree with that. I have felt him pop in, especially the last two months, three months. I’ve worked with him a little bit on my own personal stuff, probably since being back from Mexico. Since December I’ve worked with him a little bit on a couple things, so he really wanted to be the next person in line for this. So… yeah.
Amy scratches her head, looking upwards, a smile on her face.
Amy: So he’s kind of telling me right now not to feel used, that he wasn’t coming to me for — what’s the word? — motivations of trying to get this done but he, he has an agenda. A slight agenda. (laughs)
Me: Okay. Okay. So, do we — do we want to just go right into that? Find out what that is, or is there something else he wants to talk about first?
Almost immediately, Amy shakes her head, still laughing and almost cutting me off.
Amy: He’s like — (giggles) — you gotta, like, romance him a little bit. He needs some foreplay.
We both laugh. I feel very out of practice and not sure where to go but I can almost picture Robin saying this, teasing me for being nervous and just trying to cut to the chase.
Me: All right, all right. Let’s see. I guess it’s been — what?
I stop because Amy can’t stop laughing, glancing upwards and gesturing near her ear.
Amy: It’s just so hard, because he’s so fast — it’s very hard to translate what he’s saying into words, I lose it in the translation which hopefully through this process by the end I will get much better at it. But he’s so quick with his responses, like he just immediately goes into saying stuff to you like, “Woah lady!” I can’t do it, but like — he goes into this little spiel about how you’re trying to take advantage of him without wining and dining him. Like, do you think he’s a piece of meat? What do you think he is? (laughs)
Me: (laughs) All right, fair enough. That’s my unpracticed touch coming out right now.
Amy: He’s teasing you.
I take a moment to think. Robin Williams’ death hit me hard the summer of 2014. He had always struck me as the movie star version of my dad and the idea that he wasn’t around anymore was an unexpected blow, something I felt a very undeserved attachment to. We may feel like we know the people who grace our TV and movie screens but we don’t, not really — yet the loss of someone like him was devastating in a way I hadn’t experienced in a long time.
Me: I was thinking about it earlier today and I didn’t realize it had been almost three years since he had passed.
Amy: Seems like yesterday.
Me: Mm-hmm. And especially for me, personally, that was a very strange time because we had just moved to St. Louis a couple weeks prior and that week was actually when the Ferguson riots were happening. And at the end of that week when everything was kind of wrapping up I remember hearing the news about him [Robin] and it was just like… “Well, FUCK.” That was a bad week.
Amy: He’s sorry about that. It wasn’t intentional, he said.
Me: Yeah. And so I’m just trying to wrap my head around it, think of what to ask. So obviously, if we’re speaking to him has he decided not to move on, or is he — no?
Amy is shaking her head.
Amy: He’s in a great place. He’s not earthbound. No. He’s crossed over, he’s not attached.
Me: Okay. Um. I don’t know, this one is really hard for me.
I’m struggling. Normally I know just what I want to ask or say but I want to handle this delicately, for the reasons I mentioned above but also just to make sure I don’t screw it up.
Me: Not in a bad way, I guess, I’m trying to figure out how to — how to wine and dine. How to get to where we need to get.
Amy: Just ask a question! I mean, you’ve got to have lots of questions. The why, his thoughts…
Yes, I do have questions, but given the nature of Robin’s death I just can’t bring myself to put them to words.
Me: Yes. I mean, obviously I have those but I wasn’t sure if that was getting too… too hard too fast. But yeah, I guess? I mean, maybe what was happening in those — I know what we’ve been told — but what was happening in those last couple of months leading up to his death. If he wants to share any of that.
Amy: So, he’s saying that his answer, um… and he wants to talk with us. This isn’t… he’s glad you went “straight to second base.” (laughs) He keeps doing sexual innuendo.
Me: (laughing) Shocking!
Amy: He says he’s gonna step on a lot of toes when he answers this. He says that’s the good thing about where he’s at, he just doesn’t… it’s not that he even cared when he was in life about being one giant bag of offense, like he was just always offending people with whatever came out of his mouth. But there wasn’t a time when he — well, he’s saying there was a time when people couldn’t sit and hide behind their computers and phones. There was a time when he didn’t offend so many people. But then it became very easy to offend people and then spread like wildfire. Long story short, he’s saying this is probably going to offend some people but the good part is he doesn’t care anymore. Again, not that he really cared, but now he’s really got a “get out of jail free” card that he will use on a regular basis.
Amy folds her hands together as if in prayer and pauses.
Amy: He wants to make sure it is said that this is his choice, his opinion. This doesn’t mean it’s his belief for everyone concerning the subject of “suicide.”
She adds air quotes to this word.
Amy: He is in no way saying that this should be someone else’s belief. He had the right to his own individual life and choice and he wants that understood. But to him… the choice… was not about him giving up. Or what some people would consider, when you end your life on purpose, purposefully… some people think that’s giving up. Or there’s so much sadness and hopelessness in that moment that that’s what is driving the decision and the emotional state the person is in. And he said that was not the case with him at all. It was actually a relieving decision. And a… decision that brought his heart peace. But to understand that, you would have to understand where he’s coming from with that. And that comes from where he was at in his own thought process.
Amy: He was ready to leave body. To end his life, because to him, he had lived his life. To him, where he was at was where he wanted to exit. He didn’t want to go down any further a road where he didn’t even recognize his own self, and leave the world in a state of mind and a state of being where he himself didn’t even feel himself. He wanted that choice for himself. To be able to choose to leave when he felt it was time to go.
Another pause. Amy looks more somber now.
Amy: A lot of people are going to think that’s selfish.
She looks down. She listens.
Amy: But to him, it’s no different than, you know. (laughs) Parents choosing to fool around and get pregnant and bring someone into this world. I mean, hell, is that a selfish act? Maybe that soul wasn’t ready to come on the planet, or maybe they can’t raise their children right, or maybe they can’t afford to have a child or maybe they’re going to end up abusing that child… there is selfishness in all parts of life. It’s the way that we view and perceive certain taboos and subjects that brings about the misunderstanding and judgment. But to say that his life ending was an unhappy space for him, that he was distraught and depressed? He was very much in control of what he was doing and thinking and had made a decision that made his heart feel at peace. And he wants people to understand that. It was the most… powerful decision he had ever made in his life. And the truest. The truest decision. Being true to himself. That he had ever made in his life. And he says that’s going to “really fuck a lot of people up” when they hear that. But it’s the truth.
She nods, and I do the same.
Me: Okay. And I do think that is probably going to be the biggest question that people have. I didn’t want to lead with it, necessarily, but I think it’s good that it’s just out there. So then that begs the question — if that was not his agenda and we’re supposed to lead up to it, I’m wondering what else it is that he has to say? (laughs) Or if we need to go down some other paths first.
Amy: Just ask a question! He’s like, “This is a two way conversation!” It’s like a first date that’s awkward, he doesn’t want to have to do all the talking!
I laugh at this, thinking back on how I spent my late teens and all my twenties in a single committed relationship — the one that just ended this past winter.
Me: Well, tell him I never learned how to date, so I’m already terrible at this. (laughs)
Amy: It’s fine! You gotta just… jump in there, “lassie.” (laughs)
Me: Okay, well one of the main reasons I was concerned about doing this is because I’m always very sensitive to very recent deaths because there are so many people alive that are still involved, and the last thing I’d want to do — especially for someone like him — the main person I was concerned about in this was his daughter. Because you know, I also lost my father, and one of the main things I wanted to do with this was make sure it was handled very delicately, and that it didn’t upset her — I mean, it might upset her either way, should she come across it. But to maintain a level of respect, obviously, so if there was anything he wanted to talk about with that.
Amy: He immediately says that his children and partners — he’s saying plural, ex-wife — people closest to him. They understood the… two sides to him. There were… times they saw the darkness. Saw the inner demons and the struggle and the realness so… his children know where… where he was at as a person because they knew the real person. So he doesn’t feel he has anything he needs to say besides… saying that his children recognize — they understand, he always pushed them to be their own people. And the freedom of becoming who they wanted to be.
Here Amy’s voice starts to waver a little.
Amy: The freedom of decision, choice, and expression. They know this about him. That that was one of his… his biggest thing was the freedom of being who you want to be. That there’s no greater purpose in life than that. And so… they know that’s what his choice came down to. And in hindsight… the pain caused and sorrow caused and anger… was not fair. For them to have to carry. But he knows deep in their hearts they understood. And they understand. All of this.
She looks emotional, pausing for a moment to choose her words.
Amy: He doesn’t feel that his choice to exit was any big surprise to anyone who truly, truly knew his mind and how he felt. And what was important to him. As a man. And as a human being, what was important to him. Those who truly got in there, deep down inside, weren’t surprised that that choice would be made. Under the circumstances.
I nod. I understand, too. We move on.
Me: Okay. Something funny I wanted to touch on was that his name has actually come up for me in the last couple of months, just in general conversation. Whereas he hasn’t really come up a lot in the past few years. And usually when we do these conversations there’s some kind of… tie to what I’m going through personally by the time we get around to having them. The message that we come out with, ideally it speaks to everybody who ends up reading the conversation, but usually it speaks to me very strongly based on where I am. And so I was trying to figure out since we had this text exchange is what that would be. I was thinking “I really don’t know!”
And yet, now, I sort of do. I have spent the better part of 2017 untangling myself from my old life and trying to determine exactly who I was now that I was alone, now that my “better half” had fallen away and left just me in its wake.
Me: I think it’s — the idea of — being your own person? I think that might be it?
Amy: Oh, there’s more.
Me: Just because that’s been something I’ve been really exploring. You know, not being who somebody else wants me to be, but being who I want to actually be without worrying about what everybody else thinks — or what one specific person thinks. So if there’s more…?
Amy closes her eyes and listens again. I take a sip of water and wonder when I got so bad at this, feeling like I’m just fumbling all over the place.
Amy: He’s saying he didn’t get a whole lot right in life. He feels that. But the one thing that he always had… was this compelling desire inside to have that feeling of what it felt like at Christmastime. He said Christmas is too obvious and practical. But you have this sense of anticipation and joy and merriment and hope, excitement and happiness and… giving and receiving. He wanted that to be his world 24/7. His inner world, 24/7. Christmastime.
She pauses, her hands in the air as she uses them to emphasize her words.
Amy: And he says that has a lot to do with addictions. You know, they helped him… try to stay euphoric. He says that for some of the addictions it didn’t work that way at all, that euphoria was the furthest thing he felt when he was in those, but, um… but what he feels was right about that [idea] was the desire to remain in a place of inner magic. And joy. And anticipation… for life. And for what is coming.
She folds her hands again.
Amy: For each moment to be like Christmas morning, when you wake up and you leap and bound out of bed and go run to your presents. That feeling captured in that, having that… every moment of every day in your life is the key. And it wasn’t something he mastered. But he came close. At times, feeling that. And it’s also what he wanted to express.
A brilliant smile crosses her face.
Amy: It’s why he loved making people laugh. It’s why he loved being in the flow of… humor. And being in the flow of that, because he could see the reaction on the person’s face was like Christmas morning. That meant everything to him. (pause) And it should mean everything to you.
Another pause, and then Amy is suddenly overcome with emotion. Her eyes well with tears and her voice is wavering again.
Amy: It should mean everything to every person on this planet. It’s what heals people, it’s what makes shitty days happy. It’s what makes crappy circumstances tolerable. And it’s what makes life livable. It’s what makes love worth loving, it’s what makes it possible to lift your head up sometimes.
There it is. The part where it hits home. There’s always that moment in a session that seems to strike me right in the heart, and this is it. It’s what Robin is talking about that I was missing those weeks I spent crying on the couch, certain no moment that could come next would be as good as the ones I’d already had. But the moment my fog began to clear, the moment I woke up one day and thought maybe there was something to look forward to — something to be excited for — that’s when I got off that stupid couch.
Amy goes on.
Amy: And so there’s no grandiose message in that. Just like you can take a room and decorate it — you know, you could put up a Christmas tree right now in your house, keep it up 24/7, 365 days a year if you wanted to, right? You could decorate your whole house like Christmas and every day when you walk in the door, it’s Christmas in your house… that’s what we’re capable of choosing. In our hearts. That’s the message. It should be of the utmost importance to you to feel that way… as many times a day as you can.
Now I’ve got tears in my eyes, too.
Amy: And sometimes you have to get rid of things, you have to let go of things, you have to walk away. You have to end things. You have to change things. You have to… open to things. You have to… dive into things. In order for that to happen.
I know this all too well. Loss and letting go can feel so devastating, like you’re never going to be the same again, but it can also open your eyes to all the things you’re missing. Sometimes we’re not given a choice. Sometimes we’re shoved in face-first and the dive is chosen for us. But once you’re falling you realize just how boring it was up on that diving board.
Amy: The whole point is… the sadness and the thought that we have the capability of choosing to live in that kind of existence, in every moment of our lives — and who’s doing it? No one. We wait for our spouse to do it. Or our children. That comedian that makes us laugh, that movie that makes us crack up. That pet that greets us at the door, that lover that makes us feel desirable. That compliment that makes us feel pretty.
She pauses again.
Amy: And so to tie that back, the things he left, he’d gotten to the point where he could see that Christmas morning… was disappearing from him. And it was going to get to a place where he wasn’t going to be able to feel that. Create it. Choose it. Or recognize it.
The idea of choosing to live in an existence full of excitement and hope every second you can manage is an admirable one, and I can’t imagine being someone who nearly mastered it — then losing it. A great painter going blind, a genius composer going deaf. It must’ve been horrible.
Amy: But for everyone who is living and healthy and breathing and capable and — able? Choosing that for yourself is what the message is. Not waiting for someone else. Or something else. Or some other circumstance. Or some other person to deliver it. Making the choice to live in that.
She stops, seems to consider this, then nods. It feels like the end of a speech, a period closing a sentence. Done. I nod, dabbing the tears from my eyes.
Amy: It’s some serious shit.
Me: (laughs) Yeah! For a Tuesday afternoon!
We both laugh, the tension breaking.
Me: No, um, yeah. I definitely see that.
Amy: That’s it. Every day of our lives should be used to make that choice.
Me: Okay. (pause) Um, for once, I, I — don’t know what else to ask because that feels like such a complete package. (laughs) Um… I mean he got right down to brass tacks, so is there anything else we’re missing, anything else –?
Amy starts laughing again.
Amy: Oh my god, he just keeps making these references — it cracks me up. I would like to know… if he was like this — of course I’ve seen him in “Good Will Hunting” and I’ve seen him in “Patch Adams” and “Mork and Mindy” growing up but I’ve never watched any of his stand-up stuff —
I gather what she’s asking here and start laughing myself. I’m more than familiar with Robin’s comedy outside of the G-rated fare.
Me: Oh, he’s filthy!
Amy: Okay! That’s what I wanted to know, if he’s salty or if he’s totally like a sex-crazed person! Because he keeps making these references, just now when you said that he was like — comparing it to a guy who ejaculates too fast! (laughs) I was like “Oh my god, why?!”
She starts laughing harder and slaps the desk with her hand. With my own filthy sense of humor, I can’t resist.
Me: Blew his load too soon, is that basically it? (laughs)
Amy: He’s like, “Lighten up, baby!”
Me: You have more delicate sensibilities than I do, so… (laughs)
Amy: He’s telling me it could be worse. (laughs) Let me ask if he has anything else.
She listens, looking down.
Amy: No. He’s just allowing me to feel that… he wanted to make sure that all of his loved ones knew that he loved them, and that he didn’t want it to come across as… I don’t think “harsh” is the word, but his answer about his children and such, um, and he was saying like, just understanding that his… making the choice was like “peace out” and dropping the microphone on the stage. That was his, uh, that was his mindset. I don’t know why he wants that reiterated, but.
She frowns a little, looking confused, before smiling again.
Amy: And now he’s literally letting me hear Julio Iglesias. Is that who sang (singing) “To all the girls I loved before…”? (laughs)
Me: I don’t know!
Amy: (singing) “Who traveled in and out my door…” He’s doing this funny voice in my ear right now, singing that song, so he wants love to all his…
Amy: Yes, ladies. He’s being very funny about it, in this really funny voice.
She sings the song again in a strange, warbly voice that definitely is reminiscent of Robin doing a bit. I laugh.
Amy: This crazy voice! (laughs) Are you done?!
Amy is playing exasperated but I can tell she’s just having fun with it. She smiles, then nods.
Amy: Yes. He’s done. He gave a little —
She doubles over with a small flourish.
Me: A little bow?
Amy: He’s complete. Short and sweet.
Our return to our conversations was a brief one, but it felt right. The past few months of my life have been some of the most turbulent, horrible, exciting, wonderful moments I’ve ever been through, and the message Robin brought to us seemed to wrap up that experience in a nice little package. A Christmas present, if you will.
His death was a shock to the world and, to many, it felt unfair. Unexpected and far too soon. Collectively, we felt like we lost something dear to us that we could never get back — but that’s exactly what he was going through, too. Losing that hope of living each day like it was Christmas morning must have been devastating, as devastating as it was to lose a man who brought us all such joy. But if we take something away from this session and his message, it should be that we have to bring ourselves joy. Allow the world to add to it — our families, our comedians, our pets and friends and lovers — but create the joy within ourselves to experience this precious gift of life the way it should be. A feeling of excitement for each moment to come. The hope that what comes next won’t just be good, it will be great.
It might be hard. Anything worth doing is. But if I’ve learned anything from Robin (and from my past) it’s this: I’d much rather decorate my house for Christmas in April than spend any more time crying on the couch, no matter how crazy it might seem.