Thank you for so many patches

An art for social change elegy for Robin Williams

By: Nicole Armos, ASC! Research Assistant

When I turned on my computer that Monday afternoon, time stopped for a minute. Robin Williams tragically took his own life at age 63. He was not the kind of actor that I obsessed over as a teen girl, but when I heard that he passed away, I felt an indescribable loss for this figure that had quietly been there throughout my life.

I decided to honor the vast legacy Robin left behind by watching his greatest movies, and tonight I started with Patch Adams—the story of a medical student driven to treat patients with humanity, compassion and humor despite the institutional opposition he faced. Patch Adams is, in fact, a real doctor, clown and social activist whose wonderful Gesundheit Institute runs a non-for-profit health care clinic and teaching centre dedicated to infusing healthcare with fun and play through clowning and art.

Robin Williams only portrayed Patch Adams in this one film; however, looking back at his life and career I realize that the loss I and many others feel is in part due to the way he “patched” us throughout our lives with both his healing humor and inspiring philosophical performances. Dead Poets Society gave me more conviction in my love affair with poetry and literature and made me want to teach, just as Good Will Hunting further cemented my passion for helping people. For a friend of mine, Hook got him through hard times growing up, and actress Emmy Rossum shared how Mrs. Doubtfire “made [her] feel better about being from an unconventional family”. We probably all have our special Robin Williams movies that have patched up tears and hearts and courage—and further, Robin personally supported many new actors and comedians with encouragement and financial support.

It makes me very sad to know that in the last hours of his life, Robin Williams did not feel he had the patch he needed to get him through. It is a good reminder to all of us that despite outward appearances, all of us need our patches at times, and sometimes those who do the most patching are the most overlooked.

But as we move forward, Robin’s movies will still be by our side, part of the legions of artistic patches in our lives….the art we witness and grow from, and the art we make and share. This is the stuff that keeps me up at night, that fills pages of notes and dreams, and that makes me so passionate about being a part of the ASC! project. We can’t afford to cast aside the part of life that patches us: we need it in our healthcare and everything else we do.