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Image / Living / Culture

‘Love you forever’: Robin Williams’ family honour late actor on 7th anniversary of his death


by Sarah Finnan
12th Aug 2021
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Yesterday marked the seventh anniversary of Robin Williams’ death.

Up there amongst some of the entertainment industry’s most beloved actors, Robin Williams continues to be remembered as one of the greats. So much so that seven years on from his tragic death and the world is still mourning his loss. 

A very tough day for his friends and family, yesterday marked the seventh anniversary of his passing with Robin’s son Zak leading the tributes by sharing a gorgeous, heartfelt message to his late father. “Dad, seven years ago today you passed on,” he tweeted. “The joy and inspiration you brought to the world carries on in your legacy and in your family, friends, and fans you so loved. You lived to bring laughter and to help others. I will be celebrating your memory today. Love you forever,” he finished.

Trying to provide some solace to those who find themselves in a similar situation, Zak’s sister Zelda took the opportunity to remind people that they’re “not alone” in their grief. “Sending love out there today to all the folks navigating loss,” she wrote online. “New, old, the connective tissue of that deeply human pain can be hard to bear, but I find it easier sometimes knowing how many others have felt the same sting. We’re not alone.”

Just weeks after what would have been Williams’ 70th birthday, Zak has already spoken at length about what his father went through in his final years, telling Max Lugavere on his podcast (The Genius Life) that a medical misdiagnosis left him feeling “frustrated” and “very uncomfortable”. 

Originally diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, it wasn’t until after his death that an autopsy revealed Williams actually had Lewy body dementia or LBD, a progressive form of dementia. Sharing many debilitating symptoms with Alzheimer’s – including memory loss, hallucinations and anxiety – Zak said that his father found it hard to cope at times. 

“What he was going through didn’t match one to one [with] many Parkinson’s patients’ experiences. So, I think that was hard for him,” he told Lugavere. “There was a focus issue that frustrated him, there were issues associated with how he felt, and also from a neurological perspective, he didn’t feel great. He was very uncomfortable.”

Admitting that the misdiagnosis could definitely have “exacerbated” the situation, Zak also noted that the drugs his father was prescribed were “no joke”. “They’re also really hard on the mind and body. The diagnosis was different than the disease so I think it could be a situation where you’re taking stuff and experiencing purely the side effects of [the drug].”

Currently, there is no known cure for LBD or any treatment that will slow down its effects which meant that Robin’s condition only intensified in the two years preceding his death – ultimately affecting his ability to “perform his craft”. Describing it as “a period of intense searching and frustration” for his father, Zak – who is a keen mental health advocate along with his sister Zelda – said that he really felt for his father’s plight. “I couldn’t help but feel beyond empathy. I couldn’t help but feel frustrated for him,” he admitted. “It can be really isolating even when you’re with family and loved ones.”

Williams’ widow Susan has also spoken candidly about the struggles her husband faced before his death, publishing an essay in the medical journal Neurology about what he went through as he tried to understand what was happening to him. Titled “The terrorist inside my husband’s brain”, the essay details the struggle that was part and parcel of living with LBD. “My husband was trapped in the twisted architecture of his neurons and no matter what I did I could not pull him out,” she confessed in her essay back in 2016.  

“I have since learned that people with LBD who are highly intelligent may appear to be okay for longer initially, but then, it is as though the dam suddenly breaks and they cannot hold it back anymore,” she continued. “In Robin’s case, on top of being a genius, he was a [Juilliard]-trained actor. I will never know the true depth of his suffering, nor just how hard he was fighting. But from where I stood, I saw the bravest man in the world playing the hardest role of his life.” 

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