Throughout his life and career, Robin Williams was dedicated to bringing joy and laughter to the lives of people who might otherwise be struggling.
Though this was obviously out of kindness, there was another reason why he was so committed to doing this. The truth was that Williams himself had experienced depression, and he wanted to protect anyone else from feeling that way.
“I think the saddest people always try their hardest to make people happy,” he once famously said. “Because they know what it’s like to feel absolutely worthless and they don’t want anyone else to feel like that.”
Sadly, despite his huge generosity of spirit and desire to make everyone happy, that didn’t stop Williams from experiencing some problems within his own relationships—specifically his marriage to Marsha Garces.
After almost twenty years together, Garces and Williams separated in 2008. The marriage legally ended in 2010. The two parted amicably, with Garces later referring to Williams as “gentle, loving, generous–and yes, brilliant and funny,” but the split was devastating for them both.
And that wasn’t the only matter of the heart that was troubling the Hollywood megastar at this time.
Around the beginning of 2009, Williams began experiencing some problems with his heart. He was forced to postpone his upcoming one-man show Weapons of Self-Destruction to undergo heart surgery at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio.
“The 3 1/2-hour heart surgery was conducted to replace his aortic valve, repair his mitral valve, and correct his irregular heartbeat,” A. Marc Gillinov, MD, a staff cardiothoracic surgeon at the hospital said in a news release issued by Williams’ publicist.
Williams made a full recovery and returned to the stage, although his health problems would come back to haunt him once again.
Treading the Boards
At this point in his career, it seemed like Robin Williams had already achieved pretty much everything you could dream of in terms of a glittering acting and performing career in comedy and drama.
So it was a wonderful surprise when Williams announced he would be performing in a very different channel—on Broadway! The comedy superstar made his Broadway debut in the comedy-drama Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo. Another military theme for Williams, this performance showed yet again his affection for the troops.
Third Time Lucky
With two marriages behind him, Robin Williams was in no rush to get into another romantic relationship. Even though he was on great terms with both of his ex-wives, sharing responsibility for their children together in the most respectful of ways, it still must have been daunting to think of getting involved with someone else.
Nonetheless, Williams did manage to find love once again, with graphic designer Susan Schneider. The two were married in 2011 in St. Helena, California.
It seemed like this generous-hearted man had finally found his soulmate.
Top of His Game
Even though Williams had already achieved pretty much everything you could imagine dreaming of in both his career and personal life, that didn’t mean he rested on his laurels and simply sat back and reveled in his fame.
No, this Hollywood superstar kept on going—starring in two major movies in 2013, The Big Wedding and The Butler.
The following year he starred in TV show The Crazy Ones and the tragicomedy The Angriest Man in Brooklyn.
Even though his career appeared to be still at its height, behind the scenes Williams was going through a secret struggle.
Even though Robin Williams was one of the biggest stars in the world, famous for making people laugh, in secret he was struggling terribly with depression and anxiety.
“It was sad to see someone who was suffering so,” Williams’ son revealed in a poignant interview on Good Morning Britain. “As a family member and a child, you want to do everything you can to help soothe and ease what seemed to be intense personal pain.”
It seemed that though he was dedicated to others’ happiness, he couldn’t find the same comfort within himself.
A Great Loss
In 2014, the world was shocked by the news that Robin Williams had passed away.
The hero of so many classic movies, the comedy genius loved by millions—it was impossible for his adoring fans to believe that this Hollywood legend was really gone.
“Robin Williams passed away this morning,” his publicist said in a statement. “He has been battling severe depression of late. This is a tragic and sudden loss. The family respectfully asks for their privacy as they grieve during this very difficult time.”
Following news of Williams’ tragic death, the tributes poured in from fans and celebrities alike.
“Robin Williams, the most astonishingly funny, brilliant, profound and silly miracle of mind and spirit, has left the planet,” said Monty Python star and fellow comedy great Terry Gilliam. “He was a giant heart, a fireball friend, a wondrous gift from the gods.”
TV host Jimmy Kimmel also paid tribute to him, urging other people who may be suffering from depression to seek help. “Robin was as sweet a man as he was funny,” he said. “If you’re sad, please tell someone.”
As the world attempted to come to grips with Williams’ tragic death, his wife Susan Schneider opened up about the truth behind his secret struggles.
Not only had the comedy megastar been struggling with anxiety and depression, but he was also struck down with a rare neurological condition known as Lewy body disease. This disorder can lead to anxiety, panic attacks, insomnia, and memory loss.
Schneider revealed that of all of these symptoms, the memory loss was the most devastating to him—as he could no longer remember his lines, and perform his most beloved activity—making people laugh.
As Robin Williams’ loved ones struggled to cope with his tragic death, attention turned to conflict and disagreements within the family.
Although Williams had left a will, there was some uncertainty as to what exactly it was stating.
Williams’ children had been left an equal share in his wealth—which, according to them, included the house he had been living in with Sarah Schneider.
Schneider, on the other hand, maintained that the house was supposed to be left for her, as well as funds to help maintain it.
So what did Williams really mean in that will?
Eventually, Williams’ children and Schneider managed to reach an arrangement that was agreeable to all of them.
They agreed that Schneider would remain in the house she had shared with her husband, as well as receiving a trust fund to help with the costs of maintaining the property.
Williams’ children would receive the rest of his inheritance, split equally between them.
“I think they’re just very happy to have this behind them,” said lawyer Meredith Bushnell in response to the agreement finally being reached.
One of the people most affected by Robin Williams’ death was his son, Zak Williams.
Zak Williams opened up years later about how he had to work hard to channel his grief into a positive outlet.
“I found that teaching financial literacy in prison helped me heal and cope with the trauma,” he said to People magazine. “After that I found that being vulnerable and open about my struggles seemed to actually help others.”
Much like his father, he found that giving to others was one of life’s most genuine pleasures.
Robin Williams is one of Hollywood’s undeniable comedy greats.
Whether it’s watching him in one of his many classic movies—crying with laughter at his comedy styling, or with emotion at his dramatic turns—each of his roles has been an utter classic.
And behind the scenes, Williams’ dedication to acts of kindness makes his journey even more heartfelt.
Even his views on the afterlife are dedicated to making people happy. “If heaven exists,” he said, “to know that there’s laughter, that would be a great thing.”
Williams’ legacy of love, kindness, and laughter inspires us all to this day.