The Last Laugh: Remembering Joan Rivers

Remembering Joan Rivers

Remembering Joan Rivers

My Mom always told me that deaths happen in three’s…as odd as that sounds, it always seems to ring true. Recently, we lost three iconic celebrities: first the tragic death of Robin Williams, then the loss of screen legend Lauren Bacall and this week, comedy and fashion diva Joan Rivers was laid to rest.

Joan’s “in your face” and candid style both electrified and offended. She hit life head on, no matter the circumstances or people involved. Her honest approach to her many plastic surgeries became fodder for some of her best humor. It seems that she applied the same direct nature to her own death. While some may find this odd or even shocking, I find it refreshing.

Since Joan found no topic to be “off limits,” it came as no surprise to me that she had left behind final wishes for her funeral. It was also no surprise that she desired a grand affair complete with Broadway tunes, fellow celebs, and laughter. And her daughter Melissa made sure she had just that, as bagpipes played her final song and a throng of fans gathered on Fifth Avenue, dressed in their best, to honor the fashion diva.

In a society where we struggle with issues of daily life, they all pale in comparison to our issues with death. Joan accepted that death would one day find her, and she had no problem leaving behind instructions for her final wishes. In fact, she wanted to be sure that her funeral was a star-studded celebration rather than a tear-filled, mournful occasion.

I can only hope that we learn a thing or two from Joan as we consider our own dates with destiny. And more importantly, that we know where we are headed when we get there.

Breaking the Silence

Robin WilliamsLast week, we lost a comedy and screen legend and my heart is still heavy. We were forced to say a sad and early goodbye to stand-up comic and movie genius, Robin Williams. The firestorm of comments that erupted following his death, apparently by his own hand, has been amazing and incredibly unsettling at the same time. While droves of Robin “fans” shared memories and condolences with his grieving family, others took the opportunity to chastise Robin (?) by leaving hurtful remarks and belittling the actor on his families social media accounts. Experts than began chiming in to state that his suicide could have been prevented.

I have watched and listened in silent horror and I can stay silent no longer.

It is painfully obvious that our society still fails to be able to frankly discuss death with compassion and without fear of the conversation. We consider ourselves to be a “modern” society and yet we struggle with dying and grief in ways our ancient ancestors did not. Our modern medicine and ideas have left us ill-equipped to deal with the inevitable event of death and dying. We still find ourselves speechless and uncomfortable during times when our grieving friends and family need us the most.

Read “Nine Things Not to Say to Someone Who’s Grieving”

As someone who has had personal experience with these painful matters, I can tell you that it is impossible to pile any more pain, grief, guilt or sorrow onto Robin’s family. You never stop asking yourself if you could have done more…you never stop second-guessing the steps you took, the words you said, the comfort and help you tried to offer. You never stop asking yourself the painful questions that will have no answers.

The only silver lining to this incredibly dark cloud is the public conversation that is now happening about mental illness and suicide. If there is one thing that could make us smile after all of this, it is only the possibility that these conversations could save just one person. Let us find ways to join the conversation to help those grieving, with broken hearts, and those struggling with the grip and pain of mental illness.