Family, Friends Share COVID-19 Victims' Favorite Songs Friends and family of COVID-19 victims commemorate their loved ones through song

Songs Of Remembrance

Friends and family of COVID-19 victims commemorate their loved ones through song

Anibal Gomez, 78: Edith Piaf's 'Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien'

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Anibal Gomez. Courtesy of Cristina Gomez hide caption

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Courtesy of Cristina Gomez

Anibal Gomez.

Courtesy of Cristina Gomez

More than 600,000 people have died in the U.S. from COVID-19 since the pandemic hit this country and the world just over a year ago. NPR is remembering some of those who lost their lives by listening to the music they loved and hearing their stories. We're calling our tribute Songs Of Remembrance.


"[Non,] je ne regrette rien" by Edith Piaf was one of Anibal's favorite songs. It represented his philosophy on life: never regretting any of the choices that he made, even if those choices led to the end of his 30-year marriage and turbulence in his professional life. He lived the way he wanted to and that gives us great peace of mind.

The song reminds us of a philosophy on life that is different from ours, but still deserves to be honored. —Cristina Gomez, daughter

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Paula Einbender (first step), her preferred grandchildren (second step) and her favorite daughters Megan (left) and Rebecca (right). Rebecca Nole hide caption

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Rebecca Nole

Paula Einbender (first step), her preferred grandchildren (second step) and her favorite daughters Megan (left) and Rebecca (right).

Rebecca Nole

More than 500,000 people have died in the U.S. from COVID-19 since the pandemic hit this country and the world just over a year ago. NPR is remembering some of those who lost their lives by listening to the music they loved and hearing their stories. We're calling our tribute Songs Of Remembrance.


My mom, Paula Einbender, loved musicals and singing folk music. From family gatherings to long car rides, singing (despite our talents) was a part of it.

Although my mother died from complications related to COVID-19, she had also suffered from Parkinson's for several years. I believe the social isolating dimension of the pandemic sped up her death. She was alone in her room for the last 84 days of her life, and her symptoms, like hallucinations, became more disruptive.

My sister, aunt and I started relying on daily video calls to stay connected to her. My kids and I would hold regular sing-a-longs with her. We went through the folk songbook Rise Up Singing page by page, spending hours playing and singing songs that she used to know by heart.

By the time she started falling and was taken to the hospital for observation, she couldn't manage video call technology, but the amazing nursing staff helped us. We were able to hold "private concerts'' for her from our living room.

The songs she engaged in most were the ones that had been meaningful throughout her life. Singing through tears and laughter every day for hours surely helped us, but also helped my mom — who without visitors and social contact to anchor her slipped further away each day. I believe the music and seeing her grandchildren learn the songs she loved gave her some comfort and peace.

Joni Mitchell's "Circle Game" is a song I remember Mom singing to me and my sister when we were little. Beautiful and haunting, it's always been a family favorite. She sang it for me on a cassette tape mix she made for me when I left for summer camp. I remember feeling it was such a mature and pretty song that revealed so much about life. I've sung the song to my children since they were babies, and my sister has done the same with her kids. We'll always think of mom when we hear it.

This last year, the lyrics have stood out in new ways for me. I've been able to watch and feel how, "The seasons they go round and round and painted ponies go up and down/ We're captive on a carousel of time / We can't return we can only look / Behind from where we've been / And go round and round and round on the circle game."

My mom was a great mom, and she loved being a grandma. Her love for music and singing will live on in her grandchildren, which would give her comfort to know. —Rebecca Nole, daughter

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While playing "In the Mood," Eugene Hurkin used to dance with his children around their living room. He died at age 95 from COVID-19. Courtesy of Ruth Adam hide caption

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Courtesy of Ruth Adam

While playing "In the Mood," Eugene Hurkin used to dance with his children around their living room. He died at age 95 from COVID-19.

Courtesy of Ruth Adam

More than 500,000 people have died in the U.S. from COVID-19 since the pandemic hit this country and the world just over a year ago. NPR is remembering some of those who lost their lives by listening to the music they loved and hearing their stories. We're calling our tribute Songs Of Remembrance.


My father, Eugene Hurkin of Brooklyn, N.Y., died at the age of 95 from COVID-19.

Born in 1925, my dad loved big-band swing — the music of his youth. He was a joyous and social partygoer and never shy to find a partner with whom to dance the night away.

On the evenings when my father went to formal events (I remember the smell of shaving cream and Old Spice cologne permeating the house), he would put on his tuxedo, bowtie and shiny black shoes. To me, he looked tall, handsome and larger than life.

Before heading out, my dad would play Glenn Miller's "In the Mood," and we danced the Lindy in the living room. My older sister, who loves to dance, asked to be taught the steps and was promptly greeted by our father's outstretched hand. They swung, dipped, and danced around the room as the record played. Everyone laughed and cheered until the song ended, and my father put on his hat to leave.

Many decades later, my father developed dementia. During the last of his 95 years, he lost the ability to clearly communicate with our family. Nonetheless, we talked to him about his former passions in hopes that these topics would stimulate his brain and bring back my father for even just a moment. I reminded him that he ran track at New Utrecht High School, that he had been a successful lawyer and that he was a long-time Boy Scout camp master.

During those final years, I caught a PBS program that explained how people with Alzheimer's disease are more alert after hearing music from their youth. The next day I sat beside my father's bed as he ate Chips Ahoy cookies — his favorite — and we listened to "In the Mood." I noticed his foot begin to tap and his head start bopping to the swinging rhythm. I asked if he remembered the song, and he smiled as he nodded quietly. Though he could no longer retell the stories of his youth, I hope the music unlocked a place in his mind where he was as young as the nights when we danced the Lindy.

Though my father was a quiet man, he had a big personality, good nature and a love of humor. Now that he's gone, the house seems deflated without the many hallmarks of his presence. Just like my father, my foot starts tapping when I hear Miller's band begin to play. The song reminds me not to take life too seriously and that sometimes you need to get up and dance. —Ruth Adam, daughter

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Demetria Bannister, 28: Kirk Franklin's 'The Storm Is Over Now'

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Demetria or "Demi" Bannister, of Columbia, S.C., died at the age of 28.
Courtesy of Rayechon McQueen

More than 600,000 people have died in the U.S. from COVID-19 since the pandemic hit this country and the world just over a year ago. NPR is remembering some of those who lost their lives by listening to the music they loved and hearing their stories. We're calling our tribute Songs Of Remembrance.


Demetria was a teacher in Columbia, S.C., for elementary school students. And she was 28 years old.

We seem to have a lot of family members that actually sing and play, like, instruments and stuff. So, we'll just be sitting down or just playing instrumentals and just singing together. And that started off at a very young age. I can't remember how old I was, and Demetria, of course, was always older than me, but she always was singing and I started because of her.

Sometimes, we'd be in the car together, just making a song while we were riding. And Demetria was such a playful and funny person. And that was just with anybody she was encountering — it didn't matter if she knew you or not. She was just gonna be playful — that was just her.

Something that I'm really gonna truly miss is just playing and singing with her. Just being behind her, watching her take over. And when I say take over, I mean take over. I mean, she was such a star. She was really such a star.

I chose "The Storm is Over" because a couple of years back, me and Demetria had went on Facebook Live and sung it together. And when we sung it, we sound so good. I guess it's the message, really. The song says, "No more cloudy days / They're all gone, gone away / I feel like I can make it / The storm is over now." And that was the part that she used to sing.

Even though what happened was sad, it was still beautiful how many lives she touched. And I will say that, if you had run into her, you definitely gonna remember her. She left her mark — without her even trying. I promise you that. —Rayechon McQueen, cousin

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David Smith Sr., of Vinton, La., was a master fisherman. He died of COVID-19 on New Year's Day at the age of 70. David Smith Jr. hide caption

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David Smith Jr.

David Smith Sr., of Vinton, La., was a master fisherman. He died of COVID-19 on New Year's Day at the age of 70.

David Smith Jr.

My father loved Sam Cooke's "Bring It Home To Me." In the song, Cooke sings to a woman who he's in love with. When I hear the song, I think of my father's deep love for my mother and his children.

My father was a master fisherman. He used to host fish fries and serve his catch to family and friends. I remember him, with a towel over his shoulder, calling for me to be his "taste tester." I can also remember him forgoing dinner so his guests could eat. Seeing his guests and family enjoy themselves was far more important to him. The dinners also gave him a platform to share his faith — stuffed faces don't talk back!

When I listen to "Bring It Home to Me," I think of just how loving and warm my father was. No matter what happened, he would always welcome us home. —David Smith Jr., son

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Jim Haefele, 65: 'The Irish Blessing'

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Jim Haefele changed the course of thousands of students' lives. He died April 23, 2020, from COVID-19 at the age of 65. Rebecca Lichtenfeld hide caption

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Rebecca Lichtenfeld

Jim Haefele changed the course of thousands of students' lives. He died April 23, 2020, from COVID-19 at the age of 65.

Rebecca Lichtenfeld

More than 500,000 people have died in the U.S. from COVID-19 since the pandemic hit this country and the world just over a year ago. NPR is remembering some of those who lost their lives by listening to the music they loved and hearing their stories. We're calling our tribute Songs Of Remembrance.


My high school music teacher, Jim Haefele — or Haef — died of COVID-19 last year. When his former students from Half Hollow Hills High School East heard he was in the hospital, we decided to record ourselves singing "The Irish Blessing." Haef taught the song to nearly all his students over the years, and we thought it was the best gift we could give him.

One student — now a professional musician — sent out a music chart and asked students to record their part and email it back to her. It was assembled together, creating a choir of students singing one of his favorite songs in unison. We sent it to him, and the song was played to him before he passed away.

Haef changed my life. He made me feel seen. His lessons taught me to connect to music in ways that gave me confidence and happiness. Heaf believed in me, and as a result, I believed in myself. (He also left the music office window open, so I could climb through it and avoid being technically late to school.)

The world lost Haef too soon. But, his legacy will live on through his students and the music he taught us to appreciate. --Rebecca Lichtenfeld, student

A young Jack Ranney, of Champaign, Ill., plays the violin for his daughter, Jillian. Jack died Nov. 23, 2020, at the age of 80 from COVID-19. Courtesy of Jillian Knutson hide caption

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Courtesy of Jillian Knutson

A young Jack Ranney, of Champaign, Ill., plays the violin for his daughter, Jillian. Jack died Nov. 23, 2020, at the age of 80 from COVID-19.

Courtesy of Jillian Knutson

More than 500,000 people have died in the U.S. from COVID-19 since the pandemic hit this country and the world just over a year ago. NPR is remembering some of those who lost their lives by listening to the music they loved and hearing their stories. We're calling our tribute Songs Of Remembrance.


My dad was a violinist and an orchestra conductor. My childhood was centered around music. I didn't grow up listening to popular songs on the radio; instead, at my house, we listened to recordings of classical symphonies. Some of my earliest and proudest memories are of watching my dad in his black tuxedo conduct a concert. Other cherished moments are when he played "Ava Maria" at church on Christmas Eve and "The Lord's Prayer" at my wedding.

In November, when my dad was on a ventilator, we decided to put together a recording of his favorite pieces for him to listen to. One after another, my family immediately chimed in with songs to contribute, each with memories attached: Holst's "The Planets," Respighi's "Pines of Rome," Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue," Barber's "Adagio for Strings," etc. For me, it was Elgar's "Nimrod." Years earlier, my husband was just getting introduced to classical music and he asked my dad to suggest some pieces.

"Nimrod" was one and it instantly became one of our favorites. When my dad was hospitalized with COVID-19, friends and other family would ask what they could do to help - I asked them to listen to "Nimrod" and think about my dad. It is a beautiful, moving and emotional piece. I love it because it reminds me of a part of my dad that not everyone got to know or see. I will be forever grateful for the way in which my dad brought music into my life and how music will always be a source of connection to him. —Jillian Knutson, daughter

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Usha Subrahmanyam, of New York, N.Y., died at the age of 69. Courtesy of Uttara Marti hide caption

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Courtesy of Uttara Marti

Usha Subrahmanyam, of New York, N.Y., died at the age of 69.

Courtesy of Uttara Marti

More than 500,000 people have died in the U.S. from COVID-19 since the pandemic hit this country and the world just over a year ago. NPR is remembering some of those who lost their lives by listening to the music they loved and hearing their stories. We're calling our tribute Songs Of Remembrance.


My amma just adored Norah Jones' voice. Classically trained in bharatanatyam in her youth and a naturally gifted dancer in several styles, amma loved to sway to Norah Jones while preparing a delicious meal, enjoyed absorbing the notes and lyrics while lounging in a blanket, or even just feeling the comfort of the songs while digging into the newspaper or a good book. When amma was in the hospital, I studied her Spotify choices throughout each day with intensity, to determine if she was trying to wind down for the evening — Vishnu Sahasranamam — or just listen to something that, in her words, was "very soothing" during the day, like Norah Jones. I believe she connected more personally to the fact that Norah has a tie to India through her father and, perhaps just as importantly, spent a good amount of her life in the East Village just like my mother had.

It is very unlike me to fill out a form like this and share something about my family, so bear with me. When amma was in the hospital, I sent her links to several podcasts and albums through our WhatsApp chat to listen to, most of which she didn't get to. She kept coming back to Norah Jones over and over again. I found this so incredibly reassuring to spy her listening to something that I thoroughly enjoy, too. I began listening to it on my phone at the same time so that I could feel like we were in the living room consuming it together.

Writing this, it just occurred to me that since amma passed in January, I haven't really been listening to music much. When I am in the kitchen preparing dinner in a few minutes for my father shortly, I will put on her Come Away With Me album. Amma and I often discussed going to a Norah Jones show as part of our checklist of to-do's post-COVID. I need to make sure to do so. —Uttara Marti, daughter

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Courtesy of the Owens family
Susan Owens (center), of Charlotte, N.C., died at the age of 63.
Courtesy of the Owens family

More than 500,000 people have died in the U.S. from COVID-19 since the pandemic hit this country and the world just over a year ago. NPR is remembering some of those who lost their lives by listening to the music they loved and hearing their stories. We're calling our tribute Songs Of Remembrance.


Susan, my late mother-in-law, was the ultimate Jersey girl. My husband grew up with Bruce on the radio, in the car, constantly. We all went to concerts together and the Broadway show. It was the soundtrack of her life. One of her favorites was "The Rising" because she herself had risen up through so many challenges, including her divorce, her brother's car accident and the many challenges life threw her way. And yet she always stayed so positive until the last breaths of her six-week COVID ordeal, including the loss of her own mother to COVID.

I'm reminded of being at MetLife Stadium with my husband, Kyle, his sister, Stefanie, and their mom, dancing arm in arm to Bruce Springsteen. I stood behind them to snap a picture of them three of them belting out the lyrics, rapturously, so connected. And now, with their mother gone, all we have left are the memories ... and the words. "Come on up for the risin'." —Zibby and Kyle Owens, daughter-in-law and son

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Sam Corpora, 72: Merle Haggard's 'Silver Wings'

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Courtesy of the Corpora family
Sam Corpora, of Hearne, Texas, died at the age of 72.
Courtesy of the Corpora family

More than 600,000 people have died in the U.S. from COVID-19 since the pandemic hit this country and the world just over a year ago. NPR is remembering some of those who lost their lives by listening to the music they loved and hearing their stories. We're calling our tribute Songs Of Remembrance.


My dad and I went to more than 50 Merle concerts together, and we used this song ["Silver Wings"] as the daddy-daughter dance at my wedding. The title is tattooed on my foot. My dad was a crop duster, and this song is about an airplane taking away the person he loved.

This song is everything to me. It will always be me and my daddy's song. My friend even gave me a necklace with a silver wing on it after he died, so I can always have him close to my heart. —Cara Corpora, daughter

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Jason Holland, 47: Maroon 5's 'Memories'

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Courtesy of Jamie Bowers
Jason Holland.
Courtesy of Jamie Bowers

More than 600,000 people have died in the U.S. from COVID-19 since the pandemic hit this country and the world just over a year ago. NPR is remembering some of those who lost their lives by listening to the music they loved and hearing their stories. We're calling our tribute Songs Of Remembrance.


We never really talked about his favorite song, but I lost my best friend in July 2020 to post-COVID sepsis. He developed sepsis after contracting and recovering from COVID-19; it ravaged his immune system and while he recovered, he went into sepsis shock and didn't make it. The song that I heard shortly after his passing, Maroon 5's Memories" helped me through it.

The song helped me deal with his loss. We lived in different states, him Ohio and me Virginia, so we communicated mostly through Facebook. The song takes on extra meaning for me when I use Facebook's memories feature and see old comments on my posts that remind me of our friendship. Those days, a sadness still comes over me thinking about it. I miss him dearly. We had a friendship that was full of jokes and laughter and it may be some time before I find a friend that is as quick witted and funny as hell as he was. —Jamie Bowers, friend

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James L. Tomasik - or Jim - of Cordova and Memphis, Tenn., died at the age of 58 from COVID-19. Courtesy of the Tomasik family hide caption

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Courtesy of the Tomasik family

James L. Tomasik - or Jim - of Cordova and Memphis, Tenn., died at the age of 58 from COVID-19.

Courtesy of the Tomasik family

More than 500,000 people have died in the U.S. from COVID-19 since the pandemic hit this country and the world just over a year ago. NPR is remembering some of those who lost their lives by listening to the music they loved and hearing their stories. We're calling our tribute Songs Of Remembrance.


Dad was a morning person and liked to have YouTube on in the mornings for music while he was relaxing, cooking breakfast, waking everyone else up by being noisy, etc.

The song makes me think of my dad frying eggs and bacon for breakfast. I used to complain that he listened to the same 10 to 20 songs over and over, but I'd give anything for another morning of him waking me and the others up with his usual playlist and the smell of food in the air. —Danny Tomasik, son

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Hung Vinh Nguyen and his daughter at the beach many years ago. Hung died May 26, 2020, from COVID-19 at the age of 77. Courtesy of Annie Nguyen-Habermann hide caption

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Courtesy of Annie Nguyen-Habermann

Hung Vinh Nguyen and his daughter at the beach many years ago. Hung died May 26, 2020, from COVID-19 at the age of 77.

Courtesy of Annie Nguyen-Habermann

More than 500,000 people have died in the U.S. from COVID-19 since the pandemic hit this country and the world just over a year ago. NPR is remembering some of those who lost their lives by listening to the music they loved and hearing their stories. We're calling our tribute Songs Of Remembrance.


"Unforgettable" by Nat King Cole and Natalie Cole was my dad's way of connecting with me.

After my parents split up, my dad gave me a CD with the song for my birthday (even though I had asked for MC Hammer's 2 Legit 2 Quit). It was his way of showing me what I meant to him. The song brought us together, even when my dad couldn't be around to watch me grow up.

In 2009, we danced to it at my wedding.

The song took on even more meaning last summer when my dad lost his life to COVID-19. As the president of the Sai Gon Gia Dinh Association in the Washington, D.C., metro area, he had spent the last few months of his life raising funds to donate face masks and shields to the local community, including senior citizens, nursing homes, and the Fairfax, Va., Sheriff's department — one more "unforgettable" act.

I played the song for my dad following his eulogy. —Annie Nguyen-Habermann, daughter

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Janet Kilty, of Islip, N.Y., was 10 days shy of turning 75 when she died from COVID-19. Courtesy of Tim Erdmann hide caption

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Courtesy of Tim Erdmann

Janet Kilty, of Islip, N.Y., was 10 days shy of turning 75 when she died from COVID-19.

Courtesy of Tim Erdmann

More than 500,000 people have died in the U.S. from COVID-19 since the pandemic hit this country and the world just over a year ago. NPR is remembering some of those who lost their lives by listening to the music they loved and hearing their stories. We're calling our tribute Songs Of Remembrance.


Janet loved John Denver's music generally, but we all used to sing "Grandma's Feather Bed" with her as young children. She loved hearing all of us sing along to it. It always made her laugh and super happy.

The song is about joy and family. Denver sings about the bed being big enough for the whole family and their animals. One line goes, "Didn't get much sleep, but we had a lot of fun on Grandma's feather bed." Everyone is together, the whole family, and despite any hardships, we're together and happy.

It always brought joy. There were five of us kids growing up and she was a single parent working as a nurse at a nursing home through the majority of it. There was always laughter in the house despite any rough times. The song reminds you to be silly, not to lose the memories or perspective of being a kid. As adults scattered around the country, no matter if we were all together or just some of us, we'd never fail to bust into a sing-a-long of this song, with everyone laughing.

Most of us couldn't say goodbye to her in person, but we all got together on the phone as the nurse at the hospital held the phone up to her so we could say our goodbyes. We were trying to be positive and upbeat, letting her know we'd all be OK. It was just before Christmas, just days before her 75th birthday on December 31. And we all broke out singing "Grandma's Feather Bed" to her. The song has a different meaning now, but we were trying to bring her joy, to know that she was loved — and despite the pain, we were a family and we were together. —Tim Erdmann, son

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Tom Makosky, of Carbondale, Pa., poses with his granddaughter. Tom died June 3, 2020, from COVID-19 at the age of 66. Courtesy of Stephanie Veto hide caption

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Courtesy of Stephanie Veto

Tom Makosky, of Carbondale, Pa., poses with his granddaughter. Tom died June 3, 2020, from COVID-19 at the age of 66.

Courtesy of Stephanie Veto

More than 500,000 people have died in the U.S. from COVID-19 since the pandemic hit this country and the world just over a year ago. NPR is remembering some of those who lost their lives by listening to the music they loved and hearing their stories. We're calling our tribute Songs Of Remembrance.


My dad was a great lover of music. He played in bands for most of his youth, and he's the reason I have a deep love of music and playing instruments. We were always really close, but my daughter and he had the most special bond. From the time she could walk, they'd be in his garage listening to everything from Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons to Steppenwolf.

But, one song and band were exceptionally special to them — "Happy Together" by The Turtles. They played and danced to that song on repeat for years.

The line, "Me and you, and you and me," sums up their relationship. It's the perfect portrait of how they were together — inseparable and happy. When they were together, skies were bluer and he was happier. He instantly turned into a kid around her, and he was miserable if he went more than a week without seeing "his baby."

When I hear "Happy Together," I'm reminded of a time when my daughter was about 2. She wanted to run in the rain, but no one else did — except my dad. When he said "yes," they began running in and out of the garage laughing and drenched without a care in the world.

I miss my dad terribly and I don't think I'll ever get over the trauma of losing him to COVID-19. However, the thing that hurts the most is the special bond my daughter lost. — Stephanie Veto, daughter

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Suresh Agrawal (left), of Houston, died at the age of 66. Courtesy of Vinita Agrawal hide caption

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Courtesy of Vinita Agrawal

Suresh Agrawal (left), of Houston, died at the age of 66.

Courtesy of Vinita Agrawal

More than 500,000 people have died in the U.S. from COVID-19 since the pandemic hit this country and the world just over a year ago. NPR is remembering some of those who lost their lives by listening to the music they loved and hearing their stories. We're calling our tribute Songs Of Remembrance.


My dad loved old-school Indian songs. It reminded him of his life and home in India. Songs by Lata Mangeshkar and Asha Bhosle, such as "Tere Bina Zindagi Se," were his favorites. Listening to these songs brought him peace and gave him nostalgia.

When I think of a song like "Tere Bina Zindagi Se," it brings me back to sitting in the car with my dad. He loved listening to his Indian favorites in the car. My dad would sing along and he had a beautiful voice (not many knew this). Another favorite of my dad was "Rang Barse," which is a celebratory song. Anytime there was a family wedding and this song came on, the dance floor would clear and my dad would be in the middle with a huge smile and his signature uncle dance moves. My dad was thoughtful, gentle, kind, and so joyful. These songs remind me of that. — Vinita Agrawal, daughter

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Daniel Pazmino, 53: Marta Sanchez's 'Desesperada'

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Daniel Pazmino, of New York, N.Y., died at the age of 53. Courtesy of Yanira Camino hide caption

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Courtesy of Yanira Camino

More than 600,000 people have died in the U.S. from COVID-19 since the pandemic hit this country and the world just over a year ago. NPR is remembering some of those who lost their lives by listening to the music they loved and hearing their stories. We're calling our tribute Songs Of Remembrance.


My funny, cool, dimple-faced uncle was the kindest man you'd ever meet. He can talk for hours about the New York Mets, movies, Ecuador, tattoos, and his precious Jeep. When I was planning to get my first car, he tried so hard to get me onboard and join the Jeep world. I ended up going for a Ford Escape, and I never heard the end of it. Just shows you how much of a passionate man he was. More than loving his Jeep, he adored his golden retriever named Goliath (appropriate), his two beautiful daughters, and stunning wife. Like Kobe, he was a Girl-dad. Tio Daniel was the man who taught me how to drive a stick and never lost patience when I didn't get the hang of it (I still don't know how).

My 53-year-old uncle was a fan of Marta Sanchez who is a Spanish singer, and this is one of her more popular songs. This song, in particular, brings me a little closer to him, with its poetic lyrics behind its upbeat tune. Marta sings "I walk in the sun, but it's winter in my heart / That's why I'm desperate / Because our love / Is an emerald that a thief stole." That's how anyone who's ever met him feels, as if a piece of our heart was stolen that we will never get back. He was one of kind, my dear Tio Daniel. —Yanira Camino, niece

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Paul Kleinheider, 74: Simon And Garfunkel's 'Bridge Over Troubled Water'

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Courtesy of Deborah Kalish
Paul Kleinheider died in Bedminister, N.J., at the age of 74.
Courtesy of Deborah Kalish

More than 600,000 people have died in the U.S. from COVID-19 since the pandemic hit this country and the world just over a year ago. NPR is remembering some of those who lost their lives by listening to the music they loved and hearing their stories. We're calling our tribute Songs Of Remembrance.


Paul loved Simon and Garfunkel's "Bridge Over Troubled Water." Paul's childhood was challenging. He put himself through college by waiting tables on the weekends. He was drafted during the Vietnam War and took part in officer candidate school, where he pushed through very difficult training to realize his best self. He left the army with strength and confidence and became a successful businessman. He never forgot "from whence he came" and wanted to leave the world a better place than when he entered. Paul believed education should be available to all children and did much to provide assistance to children in need. I think Paul considered education the bridge to all that was possible.

I loved Simon and Garfunkel and was fortunate enough to have seen them at Symphony Hall in Boston when I was in college. I have a distinct memory of them singing "Bridge Over Troubled Water" — and can visualize it as if it were yesterday. Not too long ago, Garfunkel was performing in Princeton, and Paul and I went to see him. He was more or less in his "poetry stage" and we decided it was best to remember him for his music. When Paul became ill and was hospitalized, I was able to Zoom into his room. Although he was unable to speak, or even to respond, I played "Bridge Over Troubled Water" with the hope that he would enjoy it. When I listen to it now, it's somewhat bittersweet. —Deborah Kalish, partner

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Elizabeth Wells, of Hazard, Ky., died at the age of 62. Courtesy of Alison Wells hide caption

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Courtesy of Alison Wells

More than 500,000 people have died in the U.S. from COVID-19 since the pandemic hit this country and the world just over a year ago. NPR is remembering some of those who lost their lives by listening to the music they loved and hearing their stories. We're calling our tribute Songs Of Remembrance.


My sister loved John Denver, and her favorite song was "Country Roads." As a child, Elizabeth wanted to meet him. At the time, the concept of distance had no meaning to her, and she was a master escape artist! On one occasion, she made it several blocks before a family friend found her in her pajamas, no shoes, on her way to meet her friend — John Denver. Hearing the song always makes me think of Elizabeth and her big love. She loved with her whole heart. — Alison Wells, sister

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Robert L'Hussier, of Lowell, Mass., died April 14 at the age of 88. Courtesy of the L'Hussier family hide caption

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Courtesy of the L'Hussier family

More than 500,000 people have died in the U.S. from COVID-19 since the pandemic hit this country and the world just over a year ago. NPR is remembering some of those who lost their lives by listening to the music they loved and hearing their stories. We're calling our tribute Songs Of Remembrance.


The song "What a Wonderful World" helped my dad persevere through challenges. My mom died when I was very young. Her death left my dad a young single father raising two young children in 1969. The song made him happy. And, it showed us there are many places in the world where we could still find joy.

The song is also part of my favorite memory of my dad. I was on a return trip to Massachusetts. Just as I was about to leave, my father and I turned on the song. We sang and danced around the living room before I left.

One day, we'll hold a beautiful celebration of life for my dad. I plan to honor him by playing the song. — Karen L'Hussier, daughter

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Stepbrothers Ira Gottlieb (left) and Lewis Kirsch (right) in a rare sighting of Lewis with a tie. Courtesy of Ira Gottlieb hide caption

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Courtesy of Ira Gottlieb

More than 500,000 people have died in the U.S. from COVID-19 since the pandemic hit this country and the world just over a year ago. NPR is remembering some of those who lost their lives by listening to the music they loved and hearing their stories. We're calling our tribute Songs Of Remembrance.


Lew was a passionate listener and lifelong friend and fan of the Grateful Dead. Their song "Morning Dew" particularly touched him. The very name of the band reminded Lew that we're all sort of living on borrowed and finite time. To Lew, "Morning Dew'' drove home the abiding message that life is fragile, and in the end, small petty things don't really matter. He was inspired by that message to embrace life and to feel good about what he was doing — teaching kids in the South Bronx, loving his family and special needs children, enjoying quiet moments and not getting hung up on little things that drive wedges between people.

Lew had a big soul. "Morning Dew" reflects that gentleness. Sometimes it would make him smile; sometimes it would make him sad. But, it always made him feel good.

In the end, when he was alone in the hospital, on a respirator and without family or friends at his physical side, we asked the medical team to play "Morning Dew" for Lew as they disconnected him from life support. It allowed us to be there, musically, with him and "Walk him out in the morning dew today."

The song reminds me that life is uncertain. That sometimes monumental things matter, but so do very small things, such as random or unspoken acts of kindness. And, on a practical level, the song reminds me of my days with Lew, journeying all over the country to see our favorite band and how we joined the celebration of life with the Grateful Dead. —Ira Gottlieb, stepbrother

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John Prine, seen here performing at Bonnaroo in 2010, died last year from complications brought on by COVID-19. Laura Fedele/WFUV hide caption

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Laura Fedele/WFUV

John Prine, seen here performing at Bonnaroo in 2010, died last year from complications brought on by COVID-19.

Laura Fedele/WFUV

More than 500,000 people have died in the U.S. from COVID-19 since the pandemic hit this country and the world just over a year ago. NPR is remembering some of those who lost their lives by listening to the music they loved and hearing their stories. We're calling our tribute Songs Of Remembrance.


I don't believe anyone could choose his favorite song; everything he wrote was a labor of love. The final gift he gave us was "I Remember Everything," which turned out to be maybe his most prophetic. His music inspired millions of fans worldwide and leaves his family with a lasting legacy.

The song title says it all: "I Remember Everything." It evokes so much emotion and so many memories, they're truly hard to separate. My best memory of John is the last conversation we had — about six weeks before we lost him. It ended the way every one of our conversations ended: "Love you, Cuz!" —Jennifer Johnson, cousin

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Songs Of Remembrance

Friends and family of COVID-19 victims commemorate their loved ones through song