A Lesson from Joan

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Joan and Melissa Rivers
Joan and Melissa Rivers

Joan Rivers—love her or hate her—was a larger than life personality. She bucked the notion that women can’t be funny and paved the way for many other female comedians to step into the limelight. Tina Fey, a comedy superstar in her own right, reflected on Rivers’ influence recently in an interview during the Toronto Film Festival, “Whether that was her intention or not she definitely opened doors for other women in comedy.”

Rivers saw no topic as taboo, and contrary to many Americans, she spoke quite openly about death, dying, and what she wanted for her funeral as she did in this recording:

When I die (and yes, Melissa, that day will come; and yes, Melissa, everything’s in your name), I want my funeral to be a huge showbiz affair with lights, cameras, and action…I want Craft services, I want paparazzi and I want publicists making a scene! I want it to be Hollywood all the way. Don’t give me some Rabbi mumbling on; I want Meryl Streep crying, in five different accents. I want to look gorgeous, better dead than I do alive. I want to be buried in a Valentino gown and I want Harry Winston to make me a toe tag. And I want a wind machine so strong that even in the casket, my hair will be blowing more than Beyonce’s on stage.

But perhaps the most touching video I’ve seen is of Ms. Rivers’ heart-to-heart conversation about her own death with her daughter (watch the video below). It’s a video which was filmed for Joan Knows Best when she was prepping for a surgery in 2011. The clipboard in her hands likely had her medical forms and advance directive on it. She started the conversation off with a very typical phrase, “If anything happens,” and then launched right into what she hoped for her survivors. She expressed things that people often don’t unless they’ve realized they’re dying in the near term.

I’m personally not a fan of reality TV, but the moment she and her daughter shared on camera in a frank discussion about death is one many people could benefit from watching. It’s hard to talk about one’s own death and your hopes for people who live longer than you. It’s difficult to figure out how to even start these conversations.

We could all take a lesson from the irrepressible Joan Rivers. Start off with a humorous anecdote about what you want for your funeral even if it’s over the top. Blurt out a segue about dying. Whatever you do, get these conversations rolling!

To live how you want up until your death, you need to make sure those around you know your values, your fears, and what is and isn’t acceptable to your way of life. And, not least of all, document your wishes in a printed advance directive or an online universal directive. You know best what you want for your end-of-life care and how you hope people will celebrate your life after you’ve died. Don’t waste a minute more; tell those around you. After all, you won’t live forever.

View full post on Death with Dignity National Center



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