In March 2020, the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic. Two years later, more than a million people have died in the United States from the disease. To put a face on this number and pay respect to the departed, NPR asked our audience to share songs that reminded them of a loved one lost to COVID-19. What follows are individual stories of those who have passed, those mourning them and the songs that continue to unite them.
My dad died in Jackson, Tenn., on March 17, 2021. He got sick in January, right before the vaccine would have been available to him, and they weren't set up properly to get him the monoclonal infusion quickly. That two-day delay was deadly. He suffered alone in the hospital but got well enough to be discharged with oxygen. Then, six days later, his lung collapsed and he was in the ICU. After two weeks on the vent, he told us he was ready to die.
He was so joyous and full of life! He loved music, from Three Dog Night to the Stones and so many more — mostly '70s, but he would dig the hair bands of the '80s, Dave Matthews and all kinds of rock. He loved to belt out "Joy to the World" around the kitchen or the pool while grilling. Last Christmas, I got my sisters and stepmom a shirt with that on it. It's just silly and fun and lighthearted, and it reminds me of the times before COVID became our constant worry and our nightmare. He had asthma, so he knew as soon as COVID was out there that it could kill him. He tried to be so careful, but he still had to work to pay the bills. He grew up in the country and became an attorney with a small practice he built. That's all he did, and he loved it. He loved helping people. He wanted two words on his gravestone: "He cared." —Danielle Hardee, daughter (Note: The audio version of this story also includes reminiscences from Danielle's sister Katherine Alexander)