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.
I lost my mother, Lillie Pechuli, and then a week later I lost my brother, Lorenz Pechuli, and then even a few weeks after that, I lost my father, Norbert Pechuli. It was pretty tough to lose all my immediate family in quick succession like that. I would say a song that reminds me of family is “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” because I think we were always busy with our own lives but we always found time to meet up, and no matter what happens we were always going to be OK. We were always looking out for each other.
The song “Baby Love” by The Supremes reminds me of my mother. The music is very upbeat like her, and every time it came on, she would turn up the radio. When I think of my father, I think of “Born on the Bayou” by Creedence Clearwater Revival. My father was a firefighter and worked in forestry for his whole life. As a kid, I would go to his office, and he’d be busy doing paperwork or getting ready to go somewhere to fight fire, and that song was always on. My brother’s favorite song was “Free Fallin'” by Tom Petty. When I hear it, I remember cruising around in his truck going to sports games. He was my Little League coach and coached other teams in our community. I could also confide in him. He was just the coolest big brother. That’s all I’ve got to say. —Cecil Pechuli, son to Lillie and Norbert, brother to Lorenz