Joan, Melissa and Me

There were probably legions of people who called Joan Rivers a vicious bitch when she was alive, and some who may still be doing that now that she’s gone. But one thing you have to give her: she was brutally honest in a world of over-political correctness and always self-effacing when it came to laughing at her own foibles.

I can feel for Melissa and her gut-wrecking decision to take her mother, who was probably brain dead, off life support. Both my parents repeatedly told my sister and me they wanted no extraordinary means taken if they ended up in a vegetative state. My father, the healthier of the two who took most things in stride, also took the easy way out and just dropped dead one night after coming home from a VFW meeting. My mother, the life-long smoker and temperamental type with the ego of a thirteen year old, outlived him by a dozen years despite emphysema, an inoperable aneurysm, and a bout with colon cancer. Then in November of 2006, her tempestuous behavior changed overnight and when I ordered her doctor who like many M.D.’s write off their elderly patients to admit her for a work-up, they discovered it wasn’t mini-strokes doing her in but a massive brain tumor.

I, her son, was now faced with the decision whether or not to operate. The neurosurgeon admitted they might have to remove a sizable portion of brain tissue and it was questionable whether she would even survive the surgery because of her emphysema. My sister had long removed herself from my mother’s drama so it was I who chose not to have the surgery and who instead arranged for hospice in her apartment which is where she died peacefully and without pain six weeks later.

Yes, a tough call, but as Dr. Phil on Entertainment Tonight put it, making such a decision is a selfless act. It is far more selfish to try to hold on to someone than just let them go.

My partner and I have had similar discussions and both of us have living wills and power of attorney on the other so no one else will muddle in when the day comes.

Have you had such a conversation with your parents or siblings or your other half?

As for Joan, wherever she lands up, heaven or hell, she’ll have plenty of new material and plenty of assholes to rip apart – with a smile.

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