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October 2021

Peter On Dying

(For fourteen years, Peter has written an annual post for this blog.  Close to the time he passed away, I suggested he write how he feels about dying, and I am publishing it without his permission.  Here are his words.)

“I’m planning to end my life. I’ve entered hospice, and in a few days, I’ll stop eating and drinking.


I’m happy with much of my life. I have a wonderful wife, two accomplished sons and two lovable grandsons.  Judy and I have been happily married for more than half a century.  We live in a condo that overlooks the Charles River.  We can walk to Harvard Yard where I sat in on classes (or more recently Zoomed in).

But my advancing Parkinson’s Disease and a stroke-impaired left leg are limiting my mobility.  You have to have lost your mobility to appreciate what that means.  When I gave up my driver’s license, I couldn’t go many places alone. Now I must call for help to use the bathroom.

I am not in pain, but being helpless hurts.  I realize that dying may be uncomfortable, but it won't be as bad for  me as it was for my mothers' parents who died in Auschwitz. 

When I think about the trouble I am having at the tail end of my life, I worry that Judy may have trouble in her golden years without my help.  That may be largely in my imagination.  Not having my help may be an advantage. 

I’m sorry I’ll be missing half of my children’s lives and most of my grandchildren’s lives.

I think I am making the right choice, but if I haven’t, I won’t have to live with it.”



Even with all the sadness surrounding losing Peter, I recall some memorable things he said to me in his last days that show his sense of humor and love for me were still intact.

            Sense of humor: “Can you get my criminal record expunged?”

            Love: “I should have brought you more flowers.”

                       “You have been magnificent in caring for me.”

Missing him isn’t easy.

Adventure in DC

I had a great visit with a childhood friend while I was staying with Jeremy’s family.  She picked me up one late morning, and we talked non-stop at her DC home over a delicious salad. 

It was a gorgeous day, and I decided walking home to Jeremy’s would be good for me. I thought it was around five miles which I could easily do. When my friend protested, I promised to call an Uber to rescue me, if needed. 

As I walked through leafy residential neighborhoods, the afternoon got hotter, and I realized that my overstuffed purse and the few groceries I was carrying were slowing me down, but I am a stubborn woman, so I kept going.  An occasional dog walker assured me I was on the right path.

The bad news—I had no water with me and saw no place to get some.  The good news—I finally spied a familiar farm stand ahead selling pumpkins and cider.  I probably looked like a crazy lady about to collapse because although they had no water and I couldn’t add a huge jar of cider to my burden, I asked if she minded if I rested briefly in a camp chair in front of the stand.  Seconds later, she came with a bottle of cider, opened it and poured me a cup.  It was heavenly.

Even better, a customer said to me, “you look like you could use a ride” and drove me the next couple of miles.  By the time she dropped me off, I’d made a new friend.

I’m hoping to regain my common sense soon.

Road Trip

Jeremy talked me into driving home to Maryland with him after our guests honoring Peter departed Thursday night.  It was the right decision.

We were on the road at 8:00 pm, Jeremy and I in the front seat, and Seth and Lenny, a former neighbor and good friend, in back.  We dropped Lenny at the New Haven, Connecticut train station where he had parked his car and Seth in Jackson Heights, New York where he lives when he is not in Brazil.  We stopped in Short Hills, New Jersey at 1:00 a.m. A good friend of Jeremy’s had left the door unlocked and warm chocolate chip cookies in our guest room.  We were in Maryland by the early afternoon on Friday.

On Saturday I watched our grandson Grady kick off at his junior varsity football game, tears in my eyes because Peter would have loved it.  I have watched his brother in the goal at two varsity soccer games so far.

I will fly home soon to a life without Peter, holding the love and support of those who had the privilege of knowing him.

(I am gratified beyond words at the outpouring of sympathy from “80-something” readers.  Thank you for continuing with me on this journey,)

The Gold Heart

Long ago Peter gave me a gold heart on a chain from Tiffany’s.  I rarely took it off. 

Last Saturday, while standing at the kitchen sink, I felt the chain hanging open around my neck. The heart was gone. 

I hadn’t left the apartment that morning except to go to the trash chute, and I had the feeling that while bending over to pick up the trash bag from the kitchen floor, the heart had slipped into it and was now in the huge iron trash container in the basement of our building. 

A building staff member opened the trash container for me, and I climbed on a ladder to see if I could see the plastic bag I had recently dropped down the chute.  Alas, even though I pushed big bags aside with a long pole, I couldn’t find the one I had dropped. The symbolism of losing my heart was obvious. 

Two days later, Peter passed away.  I didn’t want the heart replaced.  It was gone for a reason.

(P.S. Our housekeeper found the heart under a chair on Wednesday.)

196 Photos, One Life

Peter passed away on October 11th at 4:30 p.m.  Jeremy, Seth and I were able to say good-bye to him at home.  His room was full of sunshine, and Mozart CDs had been playing non-stop. 

I had fifty-six wonderful years with that man. During the past eight months, his capacity to do the things he loved diminished steadily and he decided he didn’t want to live any longer.

On October 13th, as friends came to offer their condolences, our computer showed a repeating slideshow of 196 photos of Peter’s life.  They were all of happy times, and that is how I will remember him.

Rest in peace, my love.

The Little Purple Pill Box

I’m holding Peter’s little purple pill box in my hand. It is the box Peter used to carry his daily supply of the pills that kept his Parkinson’s Disease in check for many years. Four times a day, his phone alarm told him when to take two.

But now, he doesn’t carry the purple box anymore.  His Parkinson’s has gone on a rampage after thirteen years, and he can’t take charge of his pills any more.  In addition, his mobility has deteriorated so he cannot walk on his own.  At his recent neurologist appointment, the doctor said there was nothing more to be done.

So, after ninety-one years of a life well-lived, he has decided to stop eating and drinking.  Many people would not approve of this decision, but it is his, and I honor it.

I am so sad, but so grateful for the wonderful years we have had together.

Guess Who Called Judy Kugel

Last Saturday morning, I answered a phone call from someone with a strong British accent. “Is this Judy Kugel?” he asked.  It was Benjamin Zander, the British-born conductor of The Boston Philharmonic Orchestra. 

Why is Benjamin Zander looking for Judy Kugel, you might ask?

About a month, ago Seth and I wheeled Peter to Zander’s Cambridge home to attend one of his free backyard summer concerts.  Unfortunately, our footrests did not fit the wheelchair we had borrowed, so Peter had to raise his legs to be pushed.  It was awkward, and we stopped often to let him rest.

Even worse, because rain was expected, the concert had been cancelled. Zander saw us and another prospective attendee in his driveway and came out to apologize for the inconvenience.  Noting our awkward wheelchair situation, he suggested we take the legs from the no-longer-needed-wheelchair in his garage.  They were perfect.  Although he planned on never needing them again, we gave him our name and phone number just in case.

Well, just in case happened.  He was calling to ask me to return the wheelchair legs.  It seems his sister needed them.

Still, I got a call from a pretty-famous maestro.

Jeremy Update

When our son Jeremy visited us last week, he told me that he is a “praytheist” (rhymes with atheist).  He doesn’t practice a religion, but he takes a few moments each day to sit quietly and express his gratitude.  

He also told me about a problem he is facing. A close friend who is anti-vaccine believes that Covid vaccines are unproven with possible, unknown long-term side effects.  Jeremy feels that everyone should be vaccinated.

Jeremy suggested to his friend that there is a 50% chance that he (Jeremy) is wrong and a 50% chance that his friend is wrong.  Jeremy proposed that if he is wrong, he and his family will have masked up and taken a chance with an unproven vaccine, but if his friend is wrong, he is putting himself, his family and countless Americans at risk of illness and death.

It sounds right to me.