Everybody but everybody is talking about Robin Williams – and rightly so. I say we all get our rainbow suspenders out of the attic and wear them in solidarity.
His passing may be news, but it’s a story as old as Behind the Music. We saw before us someone funny and brilliant, rich and beloved. And we assumed his life was inherently awesome – or at least more awesome than ours.
But there was much, much more to his story. There always is.
Some of you may know that this spring, I drove to North Carolina to sit by my mother’s bedside during her last days.
There was nothing to do but sit with my siblings and my dad and watch it happen, maybe nibble on cheese and crackers, make awkward chit-chat with visitors, sometimes try to tell her things you think she should know. It was grueling.
But when we’d step outside those nursing home doors, nobody knew our mother was dying. Especially not the girl at the Popeye’s drive-thru.
One of those grim mornings, my sister and I had the bright idea to pick up some chicken biscuits – you know, to help gird our loins. We were pretty sure this would be Mom’s last day. We’d need protein and something deep-fried to get through it.
But I promise you have never sat in a drive-thru so long in all your livelong days. And you have never met a slower, spacier drive-thru worker in the history of drive-thru workers (and that’s saying something). I’m talking glacial.
While we waited on her to go pluck the chicken bald, the most awful gallows humor kicked in.
We started making up the cheeriest, most horrifying things to say to this poor woman– all in our sweetest, most sing-song Southern way, of course.
Things like, “No, really…it’s okayyyyy! We’ve got nothing better to do. Our mother is only on her deathbed. In fact, she could very well be knocking on the pearly gates by the time we get our biscuits. But really and truly, you just take your sweet, sweet time! We’ll wait right here!”
We went on and on like that until the tears were streaming and our fists were hammering the dashboard. It’s safe to say we were a little unhinged.
That drive-thru girl had no idea who she was dealing with that day – or what we were dealing with. You just never know.
And I think nowadays it’s harder to know.
We only know what we see from photos online — usually filtered, scenic, and all smiles. Most of us tend to put the good stuff out there and hold the bad stuff close to the chest.
I don’t have a problem with that exactly. I mean, I love the good stuff — like cute pictures of your kids (and I hope you can tolerate mine.)
At the same time, I can’t stand the danglers of mysterious Facebook bad-stuff like, “Can’t sleep from worry!” or “Just spent the morning in the ER!” Good grief, tell us or don’t.
But since we’re all putting our prettiest selves out there for public consumption – and since little nibbles of electronic conversation often suffice for “connection” – we don’t always know what’s behind the curtain of each beautiful life. And there’s a lot.
If we hadn’t actually talked about this stuff in real life, I would never know that the smiling young couple traipsing across Europe had just lost their first baby. I would never know that the lovely college girl with the impeccable wardrobe battles a painful mystery illness. I would never know that the happy family at the beach had just clawed their way back from adultery.
Way down in the depths that Instagram can’t see, you just never know what’s really going on with people. Down there, everyone is a mess. EVERYONE. And the parts that aren’t a mess are only the handiwork of God’s merciful mending kit.
We are the Breakfast Club – each of us a brain, an athlete (maybe not so much), a basket case, a princess and a criminal.
No matter what we look like to the world outside, we are all a confounding mess. Every last one of us. And we all need grace – and each other.
And that woman you see doubled over laughing at the drive-thru? She could be on her way to a loved one’s deathbed. Probably not, and if she is, that would be really weird. But it could happen. And she’d want you to give her a bag full of biscuits.
Just make it snappy.