“On Hearing of Robin Williams’ Diagnosis” by Lynne Knight

Lynne Knight


My mother had Lewy body dementia, too, a late
diagnosis. Eight years of losing all trace
of herself, like someone following her shadow
into a forest that got deeper and deeper
until it became what Thoreau called
standing night. Her name was Knight,

so sometimes I would think of her as
Standing Night, her shadow lost altogether
by then. Her words, her understanding.
So when I heard that Robin Williams
had the same ruinous disease, I thought
what a generous thing he had done,

what a courageous thing, without the help
of drugs or alcohol or anyone, not wanting
to implicate anyone in his death in a state
where assisted suicide is forbidden.
I thought if there were an afterworld
where the soul is restored to its original

form, my mother would find her way
to Robin Williams and tell him he’d done
the right thing, the thing she would have done
if she’d known all she had coming.
But I don’t believe the soul continues.
The spirit lives on in the hearts of others,

so Robin Williams will live as close
as it gets to forever. As for my mother,
she’d be content to know how much
my sister and I miss her, how we still
talk to her, how we rely on her wisdom
to stand us by on darkest nights.

Poets Respond
November 16, 2014

[download audio]


Lynne Knight: “When my mother was diagnosed with Lewy body dementia in January of 1999, there were only four or five websites that had any information about it. But now it’s recognized as the second-most common form of dementia, after Alzheimer’s. Because I believe that had my mother known what she had coming (she was diagnosed four years into the illness), she would have committed suicide, I was deeply moved by this news about Robin Williams. I’m glad he was able to stop the disease before it turned him into someone not himself.” (website)

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