Melissa Rivers Recalls Seeing Mom Joan in the Hospital Before Her Death: It Was “Very Surreal”

joan and melissa rivers
Melissa Rivers recalls visiting her mother, the late Joan Rivers, in the hospital before her death, telling Matt Lauer, "I just couldn't believe what I was seeing" D Dipasupil/FilmMagic

Melissa Rivers is opening up about one of the worst times in her life: her mother's death. Eight months after comedienne Joan Rivers died at age 81 from complications during a minor throat procedure, her daughter Melissa is reflecting on the tragedy in an interview with Today show co-anchor Matt Lauer.

The sit-down doesn't air until Monday, May 4, but NBC offered a tease of the segment on Friday, May 1, noting that it covers Melissa's memories of her mother's final days.

"Do you remember when you walked in the hospital?" Lauer asked the Fashion Police producer, 47.

"Uh-huh," she replied. "I just couldn't believe what I was seeing. It…it becomes very surreal. I'd gotten emails on the plane that she was already in a medically induced coma and they were dropping her body temperature, which I knew was bad because that is the protocol for catastrophic brain injury."

Melissa and her late mother were very close, having worked side by side for so many years. In the months since Joan's death, the reality TV alum has appeared at various awards shows and events on behalf of the icon. She most recently attended the Daytime Emmys, where she led a tribute to stars who've died over the last year.

Some of her most moving words, though, came at The Hollywood Reporter's 2014 Women in Entertainment breakfast last December.

"My mother was fearless. And I don’t mean she didn't have any fears, I mean that even though she was only 5 feet, 2 inches, she stood tall and walked through it," Melissa said at the time. "And that's what made her such a brilliant performer. She was willing to say what others were thinking and too frightened to admit."

"Truth be told, my mother never thought of herself as a woman working in a man's world," Melissa continued. "She thought of herself as a comic that had to be funnier than anyone else…She just wanted to do her job and that was to make people laugh."

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