Melissa Rivers Reveals Why Joan Had a Lifelong Obsession With Death

by Raphael Chestang 3:57 PM PDT, May 06, 2015
Playing Melissa Rivers Reveals Why Joan Had a Lifelong Obsession With Death

Joan Rivers could make anything funny and her daughter Melissa told ET that she often fixated on her own demise.

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"She always used to call me before she would get on a plane and say leave a message on my voicemail, saying, 'Just so you know, if the plane goes down, I have all my jewelry with me. Save this for the insurance company. I have all my jewelry with me," Melissa said.

In Melissa's new book The Book of Joan: Tales of Mirth, Mischief and Manipulation, she writes more about her mother's lifelong obsession with death, revealing that Joan would read part of an obituary in a paper when she was a kid and then Melissa would have to guess facts about the deceased.

Joan's obsession with death may have made her more prepared when it came time to decide whether she would be left on life support. Melissa told ET that the one of the best gifts she received from her mother came in the precise words of her will.

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"My mother left no loopholes," Melissa said. "She had the standard written living will and then she had written an addendum letter that actually gave us a description of what she considered quality of life and it was that she could still go on stage for an hour and be funny. She basically took the decision out of my hands."

Joan's death followed a routine endoscopy in August to evaluate changes in her voice and to deal with acid reflux. She was placed in a medically induced coma after going into cardiac arrest and passed away a week later at the age of 81. The death was classified as a "therapeutic complication," which means that the death officially resulted from a predictable complication of medical therapy.

While Joan did everything she could to make the situation easier on her family, Melissa admitted that she still struggled through the process.

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"That last day after we did remove the ventilator for those few hours all I wanted to do was say, 'No, I've changed my mind. Put it back in. I'm not ready,'" Melissa said. "But who's ready."