Category Archives: Death

Suicide is not the answer. Celia’s story.

When failure is a good thing.

Celia, Cindy & SarahWhen failure's a good thing.

This story has been over a year in the making. I first drafted it on December 25, 2009.

That Christmas eve, my beloved mother Celia tried to take her own life. This story is about what lead up to her decision and what has transpired since she failed.

Failed. Had she succeeded, she would be dead.

Her failure wasn’t due to her lack of trying. She was quite methodical. Was it luck or fate that she had chosen to take some 60 pills but not the ones that would have killed her or that her niece made a routine wellness call just as she was overdosing.

At 87, Celia wasn’t doing well physicallly or emotionally. She was having chronic pain in her shoulder. She had reflex. She was basically miserable and didn’t want to be a burden on the family.

Lee and I were worried when her sister Sarah moved into a senior facility. While, we thought that it was good for Sarah and we were happy that Celia wouldn’t have to schlep her places. In a sense, the responsibility of worrying about Sarah, gave Celia purpose. Without that purpose, we were concerned that she’d lose her will.

She had become increasingly reclusive. It was a gradual process since giving up driving about a year earlier. She no longer wanted to go on weekly outings with her nephews.

It’s really hard being an absentee daughter. I moved from Pittsburgh after I was graduated from high school. My relationship with Celia had always been long distance. But we are kindred spirits. I can hear pain in her voice, see joy in her eyes, feel love in the air that surrounds her. She could never con me into believing that she was ok if she wasn’t. But I wasn’t there.

There was a lot that I didn’t know. I didn’t know that she was giving away her treasured possessions. Had I known, it would have been a red flag. In the weeks or months that lead up to December 24, she had unloaded her jewelry, her grandmothers samovar, and family photos. I can’t help but wonder what the people to whom she bequeathed the gifts were thinking?

She also gave her niece a key to her apartment, “just in case” something happens.

No one seemed to notice that Celia wasn’t her perky self. And if they did, they chalked it up to age. She was never a complainer. So when she did complain about her shoulder hurting, we were quick to recommend that see see her doctor.

Celia had seen Dr. W for years. He was like family. She loved and trusted him. I wasn’t so sure.

He ordered tests and prescribed drugs. Heavy duty drugs including Vicodin. He was treating her for reflux and a number of other typical senior ailments. More drugs. She was popping pills to kill the pain, stop the nausea, aid with sleeping, and help the depression. She could barely keep her eyes open. The pills didn’t help with the pain and her depression worsened.

Usually the upbeat life of the party, Celia had changed. This is her story.

I was concerned that she wasn’t eating.

She also was shaking a lot and her doctor said she had Parkinson’s and prescribed more drugs. (She actually didn’t have Parkinson’s; it was a misdiagnoses).

Celia continued to complain about her stomach, shoulder and exhaustion. She couldn’t stay awake.

I was usually able to cheer her up. I know that she looked forward to our weekly calls. I started to call daily and it didn’t help. Her goodbyes sounded final. “You two take care of each other.” It wasn’t right. She was saying goodbye.

I didn’t like that Celia was taking so many drugs. I called Dr. W to complain. I wanted Celia to see a psychiatric social worker. I asked her niece to throw out the Vicoden. Celia weighed 110 pounds. The pills were’t helping  anyhow and I thought they were contributing to her depression and excessive sleeping. They were probably the cause of her stomach issues too. No one listened.

However, God was on our side that fateful December day. Celia was rushed to the hospital. They didn’t pump her stomach because it would have been too hard on her heart. They monitored her for 24-hours. The triage doctors recommended that Celia be committed for psychiatric help. They said there was no alternative. She couldn’t go home.

The program at Pittsburgh’s Western Psychiatric was amazing. We found a new medical team consisting of geriatric specialists, an internist, psychiatrist, gastroenteritis, etc.

Lee and I spent New Years by her bedside. She wasn’t particularly happy that she survived, but we were working on that.

The counselors highly recommended that Celia move into a senior facility. Being alone was not acceptable. Celia was sad but not resistant. She understood that she needed to get better and that living alone was too isolating.

We researched the alternatives and found a lovely senior complex that she could afford not far from her apartment. Schenley Gardens had full services including PT and medical care on-site. The apartments are small but functional and the community space offered everything that you could want. The food even seemed good!

Celia spent several weeks at Western Psych and moved into the new apartment once discharged. The care there has been fantastic. And now, a year later, she is pain free, has new friends and enjoys an active social life. Her Joie de Vie is back.

She goes on outings, enjoys on-site entertainment, movie nights, concerts, book clubs, and most importantly, loves the caring staff that looks after her every need. She feels a little like a princess. She is safe and comfortable. And, while she still doesn’t want to be a burden (she never has been), she is enjoying her life and family as much as we are enjoying her.

Celia is a fabulous mother and aunt; an incredible person. She is important and vital, caring and compassionate, a love who is loved by so many.

Suicide was not the answer. I am so thankful as is she, that she had a second chance.

For anyone who has contemplated suicide, please think of Celia and don’t succeed. Choose life. Tomorrow will seem so much brighter.


Filed under Aging Parents, Baby Boomer, Death, Death of a parent, early parent loss, Mommy Blog, Senior Lifestyle, Suicide

When the good die young. Laura's story.

Laura Hansen

I have a lot of acquaintances, not a lot of friends. That’s by design. So losing a friend makes the loss that much more tragic. My good friend Laura Hansen died suddenly on March 31. She was just 50. Way too young to leave this world. She wasn’t sick, at least not that I knew. She apparently had a heart attack and died in her sleep. The exact details are unknown. What we do know is that she talked to a handful of friends and complained of back pain and shortness of breath. She didn’t go to the doctors. She didn’t believe in Western medicine.

Understandably, her family is in shock. They were very close. Always a caregiver, Laura’s mother had been ill and Laura was spending a lot of time between her own home and the rehab facility caring for her mother. For her family, I’m sure that the loss is unbearable. I haven’t talked to them, but I can feel the heartache. I remember my own when my mother died at 45. The loud wailing of my grandmother’s cries, my dad’s nightly sobs. Three years later my brother died at age 25. I don’t think there’s any greater sadness than loosing a son or daughter.

How do we go on? My mother always said that life is for the living. Like Laura, she loved life. She never expected to die young and she would want us to celebrate her life as she did everyday.

Laura was an old soul—wise beyond her years. Spiritual. She knew and believed life is temporary. She visited yogis. She believed in spiritual guides and spoke of her own, with whom she communicated through a pendulum she fondly called “pendy”. If Laura thought you could handle the “woo-woo” discussion, she’d happily share her thoughts and offer guidance and advice. She never went anywhere without her pendy and if you were lucky, she’d pull it out of her purse and ask her guide to answer important questions, offer words of wisdom and affirmation.

After meeting Laura, I bought my own pendulum. Trying to make sense out of Laura’s death, I recently asked the pendulum if Laura knew how much we missed her. It answered with an emphatic yes.

Laura Hansen

Laura was a larger-than-life character. She had a twinkle in her eye, a contagious smile, and a brilliant wit. Her heart was the size of the sea.

Her circle was broad. An avid foodie, she dined out weekly with friends, family and enjoyed masterful cooking for herself at home. She wrote an award-winning blog, and contributed to the Chicago Examiner. Food and writing were just two of her passions. She posted her location on Twitter as “Planet, World, Chicago.” Her bio simply says foodie, writer, painter, direct marketer, and networker.

About Laura and me
I was a relative newcomer to Laura’s circle. I met her a few years ago at a press event. I was the first publicist to recognize her blog and treat Laura as a journalist. There was an immediate attraction. We spent hours on the phone. She was blogging and understood the under-the-hood technology. I was eager to learn and asked her if she’d spend some time teaching me. At the time, I didn’t know how much Laura loved to help people. She was happy to oblige and we set a date. I was so excited. I spent days reading about blogs and, by the time that we met, I had already set up my business blog, Got Buzz @ Kurman. Laura had created a blogging fool. She often joked with me about it.

There was something about Laura that was familial. I felt like we had always known each other. I couldn’t wait for her to meet my husband, Lee. He joined me in my business after we were married. His background was in marketing and publishing technology and for some reason, I thought that the two would get along. They could talk tech. Little did I know, that was an understatement.

Laura and Lee finally met about a month later at another press event. I seated them together while I was running about being the host. What happened next was amazing.

Laura turned to Lee and said: Lee Barrie, I have three words for you, Group W Cable. As it turned out, they had both worked together at Group W Cable of Chicago in the ‘80s. Lee often talked of his work at the Six Corners office. Laura and Lee hung out together. They were good friends and they shared a lot of experiences. Lee moved to New York and the two lost touch until that evening.

Small world coincidence or fate?

If you believe in fate, you may believe that your life plan is written before you are born. Laura believed that you are put on Earth for a period of time and when that time is up, you are on to the next adventure. I know she believed our life here is just one of the many lives we experience. I want to believe my relationship with Laura has fared the test of time. It probably wasn’t our first encounter and hopefully, it won’t be our last.

I can’t help but wish that she had gone to the doctors to find out what was going on with the back pain and shortness of breath. Had she, maybe she’d be here today. But that wasn’t to be.

Laura’s friends have written a lot of wonderful testimonials on Mourn Watch and Facebook. I haven’t written anything yet. There’s just so much I want to say.

Last February (09), I wrote a recommendation for Laura on LinkedIn. Here’s what it said:

“Laura is my blogging hero. Laura has embraced social networking and blogging in a big way. Because she’s just plain brilliant and has vast knowledge in many areas, she’s been able to incorporate her unique and fabulous understanding of direct marketing (she’s a real expert in the field) to make her award-winning blog one of the area’s most highly respected. I’m lucky to have met her. She’s help me to understand how to create my own blog. While her primary career isn’t as a journalist, her real passion for food and her creative writing style has given thousands of people who have discovered her writing, whether it be through her blog, Best of the Best Dining Chicago, her musings in The Examiner or elsewhere, a real treat and understanding of food and dining in Chicago. If you are as lucky as I have been, you’ll get to know Laura and if you have the chance to work with her, it will be pure joy.” February 28, 2009

Laura–Knowing you has been pure joy. You will always be loved and remembered. Lee and I miss you. I hope that you were right about life ever after. Until we meet again my friend.

Laura’s family has arranged a mass for her at 11 a.m. FRiday, April 30 at Our Lady of the Wayside, 434 West Park Street, Arlington Hts., IL (847)253-5454/

Thanks for reading  Mom and I Blog. Please contribute your own stories. I’m finding it therapeutic and I think you will too.  Having wonderful people like Laura in my life has helped to make me a better person. Tell my readers about the Laura in your life and may his or her memory live on through your story.


Filed under Aging Parents, Baby Boomer, Death, Mommy Blog, Senior Lifestyle

Sunday Supper with Grandma

I don’t know what it was like for you, but in my family, Sunday’s were relegated to family time. It meant a weekly trip toNorman Rockwell, "Freedom from Want" Pittsburgh to have dinner with my grandparents and whatever family could join in. I spent my first 13 years at Mellon Street in East Liberty, every Sunday. It was the ritual.

The routine included my attending Sunday school, picking up awesome Italian lunch meats from DeLallo’s in Jeannette, and fighting over the Pittsburgh jaunt. It really wasn’t my father’s favorite thing to do. Although, the trip often included stops at local jobbers where he could pick up stock to supplement his stores inventory. Dad owned a mens and boys clothing store in downtown Jeannette. After lunch, we all packed into the car and made the 28 miles drive.

The visit was for my mother. And whatever Ruthie wanted, Charlie was ultimately happy to oblige.

I remember those days fondly. After my mother died, I did everything I could to continue the tradition. Stepping into her shoes, I needed to make keep that the family connection. And, like my mother before, my dad was happy to reluctantly go along.

The aunts, uncles and cousins weren’t as eager to join. My mother, it seems, was the glue that kept us together. Without her, they didn’t see the need to keep the ritual. They had their own families and they were making new traditions of their own.

Since it was important to me, I made the calls, made sure that we were invited to family functions, and basically kept the ball rolling. While I had some resentment, I thought that being with us was too difficult for them. My father was depressed. I looked and acted like my mother. And we were a constant reminder of everyone’s lose. Right of wrong, it was the way things were to be.

What’s your experience?

Henceforth, I’d like Sunday’s to be “Family Supper Day” on my Mom and I Blog. I’m looking for guest posts. I hope that you’ll share your stories with us.  You can send your post to MomandIBlog(at) Every Sunday, I’ll tell your story.  You can always add a comment. I appreciate all of the input that I’ve gotten so far. Keep it coming.


Filed under Aging Parents, Baby Boomer, Death, Death of a parent, early parent loss, Mommy Blog, Senior Lifestyle

When a mother dies young.

When you lose a parent at an early age, you soon find out that there are a lot of people who want to step in.  When my mother died, the two people who wanted to take over most were my maternal grandmother Rose Nord and my paternal aunt Miriam Kurmen. As a 13-year-old, I didn’t understand why since my father was alive and well and certainly capable of raising my brother and me.  They saw it differently.

Kurman Family in 1955

Philip, Cindy, Ruth and Charles Kurman in 1955.

The fighting started almost immediately. While I sat upstairs at my uncle Albert’s home in Pittsburgh, I could hear my grandmother arrive, hysterically crying at the thought of her oldest daughter’s untimely death. My father was numb. And aside from the, “how could this have happened?” conversation, talk quickly turned to who is going to take care of Cindy.  Philip was in his freshmen year at Penn State. But I was in my last year of middle school. No one as far as I could tell considered what he or I wanted. Her body was still warm and they were fighting. It was a mess.

Not that I want to bring up unpleasant memories, but I’m sure that I’m not alone. Life and death is certainly an everyday occurrence.  I’d like here from those of you who experienced an early parent loss and from professionals who deal with children and parenthood. I know what happened in my family and I’ll be telling the story as this blog develops. But I welcome your stories and advise to help others in similar situations. What do you think?


Filed under Aging Parents, Death, early parent loss, Mommy Blog, Senior Lifestyle