When I was doing research for my book, The Courage to Laugh: Humor, Hope and Healing in the Face of Death and Dying, I asked a number of people how they wanted to be remembered after they were gone.

Most said that they wanted people to remember the happier times they shared with their friends and loved ones. Many also said that they wanted a funeral where people celebrated their life and who they were.

Joan Rivers, the comedian who died recently, was one of those people who not only wanted people to continue laughing after she was gone but also to do so at her funeral.

In her 2013 book, I Hate Everyone, Starting With Me, she wrote about her inevitable death:

“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 show biz affair with lights, cameras, action …“I want Craft services. I want paparazzi. I want publicists making a scene! I want it to be Hollywood all the way. I don’t want some rabbi rambling on; I want Meryl Streep crying, in five different accents. I don’t want a eulogy; I want Bobby Vinton to pick up my head and sing “Mr. Lonely.” 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 that even in the casket my hair is blowing like Beyonce’s.”

Although Rivers is gone, according to her daughter Melissa, she wants us to continue laughing. “My mother’s greatest joy in life,” said Melissa, “was to make people laugh. Although that is difficult to do right now, I know her final wish would be that we return to laughing soon.”

 

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Allen Klein

Comedian Jerry Lewis has said that Allen Klein is “a noble and vital force watching over the human condition.” Through his books and presentations, Klein shows people worldwide how to use humor to deal with everything from traffic jams to tragedies. Klein got into this unusual line of work after his wife died of a rare liver disease at the age of 34. He saw how humor helped her, and those around her, cope. He also saw how humor helped him get through that loss. He now teaches others how to find some in trying times. Those audiences include people in 48 states as well as Israel and Australia, and clients from IBM to the IRS. Klein is the immediate past-president of The Association for Applied and Therapeutic Humor, an international organization with nearly 600 members whose purpose is to advance the understanding and application of humor and laughter for their positive benefits. Klein is also an award-winning speaker and best-selling author as well as the recipient of a Toastmasters Communication and Leadership Award and a Certified Speaking Professional designation from the National Speakers Association. He is also a 2007 inductee into New York City's Hunter College Hall of Fame Klein's first book, The Healing Power of Humor, is now in a 36th printing and ninth foreign language translation. It shows readers how to use humor to deal with everyday trials and tribulations. His second book, The Courage to Laugh: Humor, Hope, and Healing in the Face of Death and Dying, documents how people have used humor to triumph over tragedy. And his most recent book, Learning to Laugh When You Feel Like Crying, shows readers how to embrace life fully again after a loss. It incorporates the five steps of going from loss to laughter: Losing, Learning, Letting Go, Living, and Laughing. He has also authored fourteen other books, including Change Your Life!: A Little Book of Big Ideas, Inspiration for a Lifetime, and, L.A.U.G.H.: Using humor and Laughter to Help Clients Cope. And his writing has appeared in four Chicken Soup for the Soul books. Klein has a master’s degree in humor (from St. Mary's College in Minnesota—and that's no joke!) And he is well suited to his subject. Years before becoming a “Jollytologist”, Klein was nicknamed the “King of Whimsy” because he designed all the children shows at CBS television in New York City. Among those productions was one you probably remember—the Captain Kangaroo show. Although no longer working in the light-hearted world of children, Klein still believes that adults need to take a lesson from them and lighten up.

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