Joan Alexandra Molinsky, better known as Joan Rivers died in September of 2014 as the result of a routine procedure. Her death was a shock, not only because of the way she died but because, somehow, she just seemed like someone who knew how to survive the hard things in life.
Joan Rivers was the daughter of Russian Jewish immigrants. She was raised in Brooklyn and earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Barnard College in English literature and anthropology. Interestingly, she left her jobs as an editor and then as a fashion consultant to pursue her real passion: comedy.
I remember her from her days on the Johnny Carson show. It was rare to see a woman doing stand-up and she made me laugh and cringe at the same time. But I’m not writing this blog post about her sometimes “trashy” comedy.
People who know me, know that I am a fan of QVC. I started watching the shopping channel after 9/11 because it was a great escape from the abundance of news. I don’t buy very much anymore, but I still like to tune in on occasion and see what they offer.
QVC is the place that reintroduced me to Joan Rivers. She would appear often to sell her clothing and jewelry lines. She was funny and QVC required her to be mostly clean with her language. She also made great jackets and I own a few of them. I read she made an estimated $50 million dollars from her QVC products. No wonder Lori Greiner, another QVC vendor, is on Shark Tank!
Joan Rivers led an interesting life. She became wealthy but then lost almost all of her money. She was married, until her husband committed suicide. She remained single and died with an estimated net worth of about $150 million. Joan Rivers was a survivor who knew how to reinvent herself.
A recent quote from her daughter, Melissa, is the reason for this blog post. Melissa Rivers, in an interview by People magazine, was asked about the hardest moments since her mom’s death. Melissa said that going through her mother’s Manhattan penthouse had been the most difficult. She discovered many things that caused her to grieve, including a large quantity of cash her mom had left behind. She found the money hidden in magazines, books and boxes that appeared to be trash.
Joan Rivers had stashed cash everywhere in her home, in places that only she would know where to find it. Melissa discovered her mom’s travel purses had small Milk Duds boxes inside and she threw some of those boxes away until she realized that they held cash. Her mom used the candy boxes as her travel wallets. Melissa wondered how much money had simply been thrown away before she realized that the trash could have held treasure.
Joan Rivers lived in a $28 million dollar penthouse that had cash hidden in its rooms. It isn’t unusual for a person who has known the fear of bankruptcy to find comfort in knowing there is money close by. At the same time, does that hidden money speak to a deeper need as well?
Joan Rivers got up last September, went to her doctor for a simple procedure and never returned home. All that she had hidden in her penthouse did not save her or keep her safe. She worked hard and made a lot of money but she could not buy what she most needed that day.
The articles about her life speak about her brash talk, her business savvy, and her will to survive. She was a strong person. I think the hidden money in her books and in her empty candy boxes indicate that there was more to her story. She had experienced loss and wanted to protect herself from that pain. But, none of us can save enough money to make everything all right.
Jesus spoke about money more than any other subject. Money is mentioned more than 2000 times in Scripture. In the New Testament, money is mentioned more often than heaven and hell combined. Jesus taught his disciples, “No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money” (Matthew 6:24).
There are no indicators in Joan Rivers’ life that she served Jesus. Was her hope in the money she had made? Did she feel safe in her home because she walked past magazines, books and even trash that she knew held cash? Which master did she serve?
Every scrap of her money that was hidden or thrown away bore the phrase, “In God we trust.” Every day we have the choice to serve the money or the Master. When our lives end, that choice will be the only one that matters forever.