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Listeners remember loved ones lost to COVID-19, who will be missed at Thanksgiving


While we celebrate with our friends and families tonight, thousands of Americans are also missing the loved ones they've lost to COVID-19. The virus has claimed the lives of more than 750,000 people in the U.S. So we begin this hour with some of our listeners sharing memories of the people who are no longer at their Thanksgiving tables.

SARAH WILLIAMS: My name is Sarah Williams, and I live in Illinois. My grandmother's name is Marilyn Vande Voorde. She passed away on February 19 in 2021, and she lived the majority of her life in Annawan, Ill. She was 83. My grandmother's passing was heart-wrenching. I was nearing nine months pregnancy. And it was very difficult when it happened because we weren't anticipating her to pass away anytime soon.

At Thanksgiving, my grandmother was the conductor of this crazy orchestra. She would be in the kitchen getting stuff warmed up, getting stuff made, receiving guests. She never really made anybody feel like they had to bring something. But if they did, that was great. And she was always welcoming and open in that way. And this Thanksgiving, I'm really happy that I can share my child with the rest of them and enjoy the chaos that's going to happen, familiar (ph) but also a little different. And I'm wanting to embrace that this year.

DANIEL PALACIOS: My name is Daniel Palacios. I'm currently living in Las Vegas, Nev. I'm originally from Quito, Ecuador. My uncle's name was Freddy Espinosa. He passed away on December 10, 2020. He lived in Las Vegas, Nev. He was a nurse practitioner. I migrated to this country with him when I was little. Him, me and my mom came, really, on the same plane at the same time.

My uncle was for Thanksgiving - he was the prince of the house in some ways. He came, and he ate. He was always served, always loved. What he brought to us was his laughter and his joy. The thing that I know that for Thanksgiving he loved was the sweets and, like, the pumpkin pie, you know? Oh, pumpkin pie, you know? He'll always be like - oh, what sweets do we have this time? Unfortunately, this Thanksgiving, my mother is out of the country. Because of COVID, we haven't really planned anything, but we're going to get together this weekend, just have a little get-together and, you know, eat, talk and kind of reminisce about him, you know?

BECKY LISCUM: My name is Becky Liscum. I live in Oak Park, Ill. My mom's name was Joan Liscum. And she lived in Madison for a lot of years, but she was born on a farm in Ontario, Wis. She passed away the evening before Thanksgiving last year, 2020. She was 90 years old when she passed away. I was able to be in the room with her, even though it was COVID and she was in a memory care facility. I was able to be with her, and I got to tell her all kinds of things, you know? I've said to her out loud, Mom, I know I didn't follow everything you wanted me to do. I didn't learn how to cook all the time, but I promise you I will bake pies.

Thanksgiving really revolved around the pies and the pie baking in our household, in our family. And she had the world's best pie crust. I was always intimidated to try to bake a pie for Thanksgiving because my mom always did it so beautifully, so I couldn't feel that I could duplicate her crust. But she did tell me at one point - she said the secret is ice water in the dough. So I have a recipe, and I intend to bake Thanksgiving pies this year.

CORNISH: That was Becky Liscum, Daniel Palacios and Sarah Williams remembering their loved ones who died of COVID-19. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Alejandra Marquez Janse
Alejandra Marquez Janse is a producer for NPR's evening news program All Things Considered. She was part of a team that traveled to Uvalde, Texas, months after the mass shooting at Robb Elementary to cover its impact on the community. She also helped script and produce NPR's first bilingual special coverage of the State of the Union – broadcast in Spanish and English.