The world lost one of its greatest comedians when Robin Williams lost his battle with depression today. My heart hurt when I heard the news, and I thought back to a song that touched my heart back in 1967. “Tears of a Clown” was a number one hit in both the US and England. I could relate to the lyrics and sang it at least a thousand times while in high school. I still find myself singing it when the world gets me down.
In case you aren’t familiar with the song, here are the lyrics written by Smokey Robinson to go with music scored by Stevie Wonder.
“Now if there’s a smile on my face
It’s only there trying to fool the public
But when it comes down to fooling you
Now honey that’s quite a different subject
But don’t let my glad expression
Give you the wrong impression
Really I’m sad, oh I’m sadder than sad
You’re gone and I’m hurtin’ so bad
Like a clown I pretend to be glad
Now there’s some sad things known to man
But ain’t too much sadder than
The tears of a clown, when there’s no one around
Uh hum, oh yeah baby
Now if I appear to be carefree
It’s only to camouflage my sadness
And honey to shield my pride I try
To cover this hurt with a show of gladness
But don’t let my show convince you
That I’ve been happy since you
Decided to go, oh I need you so
I’m hurt and I want you to know
But for others I put on a show, ooh yeah
Just like Pagliacci did
I try to keep my surface hid
Smiling in the public eye
But in my lonely room I cry
The tears of a clown
When there’s no one around, oh yeah, baby baby
Now if there’s a smile on my face
Don’t let my glad expression
Give you the wrong impression
Don’t let this smile I wear
Make you think that I don’t care
When really I’m sad…I’m hurting so bad…”
Like Pagliacci, the cheers of the world encourage me to hide my hurt and forget my pain. I didn’t know Robin Williams personally, but I spent countless hours laughing with him. The mention of his name made me grin, and his movies made me laugh out loud each time I watched them. I hope I will continue to enjoy his incredible work, but I can’t help but cry tonight as I think of the pain he endured while keeping us laughing.
It’s not easy to keep the world happy, especially when your heart is broken. We all pretend to be glad when we are sad at some point in our lives, but for some it is a never-ending battle. I spent far too much of my life putting on a happy face and ended up missing a great deal because of it. I’m learning it’s best to be real and let people see my tears. When I do, I find that hurt is part of everyone’s journey. I’m learning to cry out to and with others, and it’s changing my heart.
There is truly nothing sadder than the tears of a clown, especially when those tears flood the soul and stop the heart. I have known deep sadness in my life, and I’ve considered death as an escape twice. I thank God that I did not end up drowning in my sorrow either time. I’m learning to let others know when I’m hurting or tired or need a hand. Having loving friends and family who hear my heart and love me as I am makes all the difference. I wish that were true for all who face deep sadness or battle depression. I pray I will look more deeply into the hearts of those I love and look more closely into their eyes to see if there is a tear hiding behind their smile.