Jeffrey Whitaker, 67: Adele's 'Hello'
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 brother was retired Air Force. As a single man, his life was full: Jeff was an aeronautical engineer who did a stint on the transport plane that took the space shuttle from Cape Canaveral to Edwards Air Force Base. He was an avid cyclist. He also was fully vaccinated at the time he contracted the virus. Because he was being treated for lymphoma on an ongoing basis, the virus was too much for him. I miss our Sunday morning calls, something he did every Sunday before heading off to church. They were our way of connecting across the country, across our political differences, across the divide of our lives.
The song that comes to mind is Adele's "Hello." My brother likely didn't know this song, but as I sat in his apartment in the Mojave Desert in December last year, attempting to clean out the place, I wanted to connect with him in some way. I've played the song many times since then. It brings me closer to him.
Because of circumstances beyond my control, my brother died alone, but for the loving nurse who assured me he would stay with him as he took his last breath. Adele's song helps me to believe that in some way, I keep connected to Jeff. I share this with NPR because it is important to me that he be remembered, that Jeff's name is said. —Tina Neyer, sister
Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.