Death, Tragedy and Voice

by Jennifer Paros

September 2014

Life is eternal, and love is immortal, and death is only a horizon; and a horizon is nothing save the limit of our sight.

~ Rossiter Worthington Raymond 


With Robin Williams's recent death came many articles and posts expressing sorrow over what is most commonly being called a great loss and tragedy. And though on the surface it is hard not to be aware of loss of some sort, the tremendous gain and contribution of his unique voice remains impossible to lose.

Though sometimes tempted to see events and experiences as tragic, I have, in honesty, gradually grown away from such thinking. Now what stands out is the integrity and uniqueness of each person's life's design. I see my inability to fully comprehend another's experience and choices – to wholly attune to their unique perspective and that which calls them forward. Yet I do have the ability to trust the integrity of their life regardless of how it presents or, for that matter, how it ends.

Though I recognize (and would like to ease) the pain we sometimes experience when someone dies, something within me does not see death as tragic – even under severe circumstances, even of one very young, even of one who takes his own life. My awareness of this different perspective that feels so truthful leads me over and over to listen for how it can be so.

This, I believe, is the process of finding our voice. We feel a pull from within, a perspective calling; we turn our attention away from other voices, we ask and listen. This is the way new stories are born; new worlds of philosophy, of fantasy, of comedy, and drama. This voice is able tell the story we most want to hear and share – and we get to be the first ones to receive it. We call that our voice and when it comes, it suits us better than any other. It is like putting on clothing that fits perfectly and feels right. It is the alignment of our outward expression with our spirit.

In your voice, your readers should be able to hear the contents of your mind, your heart, your soul.

~ Meg Rosoff 

I see life as too strong to be pitied, too powerful to be vulnerable, too backed by love to be defeated. I feel the intelligence of life as eternal and us as part of that intelligence and love.

I don't see us as vulnerable. We are the stuff of this universe and this universe is durable and remarkable. We're intended to die; change is constant, necessary, and life-giving. We're part of something great – a life force that keeps planets orbiting, plants growing, cells regenerating, and the universe expanding. Tragedy is what we see when we're not understanding the depth of what we are. In a world that prefers statistics and scientific data, I've got nothing. For me, this is an unprovable truth – like love. I can only describe what I see from my vantage point. But that is what's so great in each of us – the capacity to share what we see and how we see, each contributing our unique voice - as Robin Williams did in such a funny and brilliant way.

Reality: What a concept!

~ Robin Williams 

I have no authority to give anyone permission to write, speak, and act from his or her deepest truth. We can only give ourselves permission to live the whole of who we are. But if I could, I’d give it to everyone daily because there is nothing more inspiring than witnessing another in step with who they are, using the voice that best suits them, and thriving in the life that best reflects them – as Robin Williams did. Regardless of the times when he did not, his life remains a perfect testimony to his genius, not his sorrow.

Beyond the view of tragedy and loss is a greater vision; and I know that greater vision is available to us every time we pull our attention from the surface of how things look to the depths of how things are. Beneath the appearance of our experience, the creative energy of love always flows. The voice of love is eternal; let us express it as best we can, for it is more powerful and lasting than any story ever lived.

 Jennifer Paros is a writer, illustrator, and author of Violet Bing and the Grand House (Viking, 2007). She lives in Seattle. Please visit her website at

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