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An Army Suicide Widow Remembers Robin Williams With a Smile

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I remember running through the house, quickly opening a bedroom door to make sure my husband wasn’t choking or having a stroke. His screams and squeals could be heard throughout our entire place.

I found him, lying on the floor, in front of the TV gasping for air. On the screen above him was a paused image featuring Robin Williams’ face screwed up in a comedic expression. My husband was laughing and coughing, desperately wiping tears from his eyes.

“You”—gasp!—“have to”—cough!—“watch this”—howl!

He rewound to the start of the segment. Robin Williams was making fun of Scotland. And educating the audience. About golf. I don’t know if it is his accent, the reckless and wild use of the f-bomb, or simply the fact that he hits the nail completely on the head, but before long our three children were coming to make sure their parents weren’t choking. Or having a stroke. A stroke. Get it?

It was only a few years later that my laughing, hysterical husband would succumb to the same illness that Robin Williams did Monday. From the beginning, I have chosen to be honest about my husband’s struggle with depression, and his eventual death by suicide. As the news broke about Williams’ death Monday, my heart broke for his family. And for him.

Mike McCaddonCourtesy of the McCaddon Family

You see, my husband Mike was funny, too, and often laughing. He saw the humor in the mundane and he could disarm those around him with humor.

Robin Williams is one of those actors that made us believe. He made us believe he was a teacher, a therapist and Peter Pan. He made us believe that if you just paid attention, this world was something to be open to, armed with laughter. I think it’s fair to say that until Monday night, when most of us talked about him, we didn’t discuss his struggle with addiction. I’m betting we never paused to wonder if it was rooted in anything other than fame.

We never stopped to ponder whether this heartfelt, hilarious man was battling depression. That’s why I’m grateful for the expert on CNN who kept referring to the “brain disease” that took Robin Williams’ life.

Since my husband died in March 2012, I’ve worked hard to remind people that untreated depression can kill. And depression does not always announce itself to friends, neighbors, co-workers and fans. Depression can be a silent killer—with often only a family member or two struggling to find the right balance of love and medical support to help their loved one through.

Robin Williams has left me with one final smile. Because of who he was, because of what he meant to so many and because he was one of the finest entertainers to ever walk this planet, Robin Williams has broken through the stigma surrounding depression and suicide. There hasn’t been a global rush to judgment. I’ve (thankfully) yet to hear a single person refer to his choice as “selfish.”

Rather, there has been an overwhelming international response to his death as tragic—as the result of a disease. And as a great loss to those of us who already miss him. Just as I pictured my husband “on the other side,” baffled to discover how treasured he was by so many loved ones, friends and co-workers, I also picture Mr. Williams with tears in his eyes to discover that he was loved by the whole world. I just wish we’d had the chance to do more for him.

Today, I plan to curl up in front of the TV and remember two men who managed to capture my heart and make me laugh until someone had to come check on me. You are both loved. You are both missed. And we will continue to learn and grow in our understanding of how to treat depression because of both of you. Rest in peace, and laughter, Mr. Williams.

Please, if you, or someone you love, are depressed or thinking of ending your life for any reason, reach out. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK. You will not be judged. You deserve to know you are loved.

Leslie McCaddon, the widow of Army Captain Michael McCaddon, is a mother of three and lives in Arizona.

Robin Williams' Life in Pictures

Robin Williams life in pictures
Robin Williams in the 8th grade at Detroit Country Day School in Birmingham, Mich. in 1965.Courtesy Williams Family
Robin Williams life in pictures
In the 8th grade, Robin Williams, #15, played on the basketball team at Detroit Country Day School.Seth Poppel—Yearbook Library
Robin Williams life in pictures
Robin Williams in high school.Courtesy Robin Williams
Robin Williams Popeye 1980
Williams' played the spinach-loving sailor Popeye in its eponymous 1980 film.Paramount/AP
Robin Williams life in pictures
Robin Williams in September of 1981Steve Ringman—San Francisco Chronicle/Corbis
Robin Williams life in pictures
Robin Williams with his mom, Laurie Williams, during the premiere of "Moscow on The Hudson" at Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills, Calif in 1984.Ron Galella—Wire Image/Getty Images
Robin Williams life in pictures
Robin Williams and Christopher Reeve at Silver Friedman's "The Original Improvisation" in New York in 1988.Jim Demetropoulos—Retna Ltd./Corbis
Robin Williams life in pictures
Robin Williams, third from right, dressed as a cheerleader on Nov. 12, 1979 with the Broncos' Pony Express cheerleaders during the filming of an episode of "Mork & Mindy," in Denver.AP
Robin Williams 1987
Robin Williams played radio DJ Adrian Cronauer in director Barry Levinson's comedy drama, Good Morning Vietnam in 1987.Touchstone Pictures/AP
Williams taught a generation to seize the day, to make their lives extraordinary, as John Keating in Dead Poets Society.Buena Vista Pictures
Williams played a grown up version of Peter Pan in the 1991 family classic Hook.TriStar Pictures
Williams lent his substantial talents to voicing Genie in Disney's 1992 animated film Aladdin.Disney
Household chores were no match for Robin Williams as he donned layers of prosthetics to play Mrs. Doubtfire in the 1993 movie of the same name.20th Century Fox
Williams starred as Alan Parrish, a boy stuck inside a board game for twenty-six years in the 1995 film Jumanji.TriStar Pictures
Starring opposite a young Matt Damon, Williams played Dr. Sean Maguire, in the 1997 film Good Will Hunting.Miramax
Williams played a living android in the 1999 film Bicentennial Man.Buena Vista
Williams took on the likeness of Teddy Roosevelt in Ben Stiller's Night at the Museum.20th Century Fox
Robin Williams Death
Robin Williams and his family are seen with their dogs on May 2005. From left to right: Kiwi (poodle), son Cody Williams, Robin Williams, daughter Zelda Williams, Marsha Williams and Mizu (poodle)Lacy Atkins—Emily Scott Pottruck/Trails of Devotion

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