Obituary for Lisa Irene Kazazian

Jun 11, 2020 | Obituaries | 14 comments

Most obituaries are not written by the people who knew the person who died. For good reason. Usually, obits are concise, whittling a person’s entire life down to a paragraph of words, hitting the most important notes and moving on. Most people are worth more than that. 

My mom, Lisa Irene Kazazian, passed away on April 25, 2020, at age 53. She is survived by her parents, Ed and Linda Kazazian, her sister, Nina Hermine Kazazian, and me, her daughter, Madison Irene Lauterbach. 

She wrote in part of her will that she would like people to remember this about her: “I loved with all my heart and soul. I was passionate, compassionate, creative and would have done anything for my daughter–the Sunshine & light of my life.”

I am that Sunshine. I am the only child she birthed, loved and taught. 

It has taken me six weeks to write this because I have felt lost without her and it has been an incredible struggle organizing my thoughts and feelings about her death. We had a tumultuous relationship. She was my best friend, and she was an addict and alcoholic who made years of my life miserable when she was using. She missed most of my important birthdays, screamed at me when I wouldn’t buy her alcohol, and was the reason for all of the 911 calls I’ve made. 

But I also remember her as a kind, loving, generous, thoughtful, respectful, considerate caring mother, daughter, and friend who loved travel, photography and her cats, who protected and loved her until the very end. When I found my mother’s body, her oldest surviving cat Smitten was perched on her stomach, waiting for help to arrive. 

I wish I could make cheese toast with her, make her laugh or even get annoyed with her again. We used to love sitting on her bed, eating avgolemono soup and tiropita that I picked up from Pete’s Central One on my way to her house and watching the latest TV show that I had gotten her “sucked into,” like Grey’s Anatomy and Brooklyn 99. I got her into Marvel and the Harry Potter movies, which she especially enjoyed watching with me because I “explained them so well” to her. But she really loved the Fast and the Furious movies and Disney’s Eight Below, each of which she must have watched over 20 times. 

My mom spent so many hours watching television because she was unreliably employed for many years. She often referred to herself as a jack of all trades, having worked so many different jobs. She graduated from Colorado State University with a bachelor’s in English and went on to receive her teaching certificate from Metropolitan State College of Denver, now University. She taught kindergarten for a period of time before she was fired due to an arrest. Teaching was her favorite occupation, especially the absurdity of kids that age. When “Who Let the Dogs Out” by Baha Men came out, her students sang the chorus nonstop for months afterward, which drove her crazy but became one of her favorite memories. 

After she left teaching, she worked at Pinnacol Assurance for a few years. I remember when she got a promotion and how proud she was of herself. Those accomplishments for her were few. The moments where she realized her potential and value are some of my favorites. 

In the years since she left Pinnacol in the mid-2000s, she worked for short spurts of time or not at all. Most recently, she volunteered at Rocky Mountain Feline Rescue on weekends, which gave her a renewed sense of self-worth and satiated her desire to collect more cats. At the time of my mom’s death, she still had two of the five cats she had adopted over the years. She was determined to get to the point where she could travel and move out of Colorado without the cat attachments, but resisting the pull of more cats was a struggle for her. Working at the rescue allowed her to make new feline friends and avoid signing up for another 20-year commitment. She loved telling me all about the rescues and the people she worked with. 

Since my mom passed away I’ve been keeping a list of things I remember about her that make me smile. If I was on the phone with her and she caught sight of the sunset, she’d tell me to go to the window to look. Her camera roll was filled with photos of cloud formations she thought were interesting. When we went to New Zealand together, we rented a Juicy campervan and drove through the night from Christchurch to Mount Cook National Park. On the drive, hundreds of rabbits darted across the road, and I had to swerve and slam on the brakes constantly to avoid them. I managed to only hit one of them in the four-hour drive, something we would laugh about in the following years. 

The first time I accidentally ran over a squirrel, I immediately called her and started sobbing. She was the first person I called about every difficult thing in my life. The day before she died we FaceTimed for over an hour. We talked about relationship difficulties, the progress I was making with Ms. Mayhem and laughed about the cats interrupting the video. She told me she was proud of me, of what I was creating and what I had already accomplished. When I think about that last conversation, my heart breaks because I couldn’t have asked for a better goodbye. I got the best of everything from our relationship: support, encouragement and humor. The last thing I got to tell her is that I loved and missed her. 

In the weeks since my mom’s death, so many people have reached out to me to tell me their stories about her. I’ve realized just how much joy my mom gave to those who met her. I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to experience her full, unfiltered light. 



Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a celebration of life for Lisa Kazazian is delayed until it is safe for large groups to gather again. Updates can be found on her Facebook page. 


  1. Chris Edmondson

    Lisa, I’m so sad to hear about the news. I don’t know what to say. Thank you so much for being there for me during a pivotal time in my life. I’ll never forget it. You were one of the most free spirited, supportive people I’ve ever known and I’m wracked with guilt over not being as in-touch as we once were.
    Rest now, old friend. Your legacy lives on.

  2. Dave C

    Madison….thank you for your this beautiful tribute to you mother Lisa. I was a friend of hers at Palm Springs HS, but we lost touch with each other when she left UCSB for CSU…..for some of the reasons you mention. She was special to me and a beautiful person, her written poetry still remains in my memory to this day. I cared for her deeply back then and will always treasure the time her and I had together. We go through life and some people impact our lives more than others….for me Lisa was one of those…..

  3. Pat RIttenhouse George

    I am sorry that I never met your mother. I am friends with your Grandma Linda. Your mom is the age of my daughters- which makes you the age of my oldest grandchildren.

    Your tribute to your mother is beautiful. Most of us have loved ones who give us both times of ultimate joy and also deep sorrow. Your gift in being able to state the richness and beauty of your mom’s life is a tribute to you, to her, and to all who love you.

    Please accept my deep sympathy for your loss. And also know I subscribed to Ms Mayhem and love it!

  4. Mike Filion

    Madison, that is a beautiful tribute. I am so sad for your loss.

  5. Bren

    Madison, That was a lovely tribute to your mom. I’m so sorry that those special moments can only live on in your memories. Regardless of the crazier times I know she loved you more than anything.

    I’m here for you if you need a friend.

  6. Michael ORourke

    This amazing Madison. Thank you for sharing!!!

  7. Ed Arnos

    Madison, you have an exceptional gift for sensing reality when the issues are intensely emotional and difficult to understand. This will serve you well in life as well as in your new endeavor with msmayhem.
    No matter where Linda and I are located, you are always welcome to visit.

  8. Jude DeLorca

    I didn’t have the pleasure of knowing this wonderful, bright and passionate person, but I know she left you, Madison, on this earth to continue that passion and remember her love and continue giving that love and humor out to others for all the decades you have ahead of you.

    That she was still here to know that you would start your own magazine with your other talented colleagues is wonderful timing on Fate’s part – she must have been proud.

    You will hold her in your heart and soul forever – she will continue to teach as you look back on conversations and examples; you have not lost her. It is the more difficult as
    she should have had another 30-40 years to be your co-pilot.

    May you heal and your grieving lessen,

    Abrazos –


  9. Lloyd Moore

    Love you and your mom very much. She was always a bright spot in my life. Every time we saw each other there would typically be a several minute hug 🙂 I was always worried during the periods of her absence. Not sure if you remember, but when you all lived off of Broadway and Littleton Blvd I came over numerous times. I can remember she was cooking vegetarian then and cannot remember if you had decided to eat vegetarian and she joined you or? I will always remember her smile, eyes and hugs.

  10. Terri

    What I will always remember most about Lisa was her big beautiful brown eyes and her excitement for life. She touched many lives and will be missed very much.

  11. Nadia Zylawy

    This is so beautiful, Madison. I feel the love you shared and I feel your loss. I send thoughts of comfort and strength in your time of grief, and in your journey to finding peace after her passing.

  12. Martha lauterbach

    The tribute you wrote to your mother breaks my heart for you. You loved her unconditionally and she loved you back unconditionally. I know you miss her terribly and that there is a huge void in your heart and in your life without her. Bon courage, Madison. Keep your love and good memories of her close to your heart and live you’d life to the fullest. Love aunt Martha

  13. Sally Irene Rittenhouse Allison

    Oh my beautiful grandniece , Madison! You have opened your heart and voice to share the joys and heartaches of your memories with your mom. You have taken on the task of sharing with the world the complicated , yet rewarding, love you feel and what she stood for.
    Lisa lives in my heart, and you, Madi,
    are truly the Sunshine and light of her life. I respect you deeply for writing this beautiful tribute to her.

  14. Darcy

    Lisa’s smile would always bring hope. In the times we spent together as kids she always had smart wit about her persona. From what I knew she also had a wonderful curiosity for travel. LISA’S love for Madison would never be denied. Knowing what I know now about our mother’s passing to the other side, they r still with us. Look for her love, it’s right next to you every day. Do you hear yourself thinking something she would say? Yeah, that’s her smiling with you, loving you, reminding you that you can do it.


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