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Kris Ann Tamez, 47: Janis Joplin's 'Me And Bobby McGee'

Kris Ann Tamez, of Austin, Texas, died at the age of 47.
Courtesy of Yvette Slagle
Kris Ann Tamez, of Austin, Texas, died at the age of 47.

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 incredible cousin passed away Feb. 4 after a week-long battle in the ICU, a true rollercoaster of emotions for our family. When I received the text message from my cousin (Kris Ann's younger sister) that "we have gained a guardian angel ... " I quietly walked upstairs, lit a candle, and cried. There has been so much sadness and pain this year for so many people, it's hard to fathom. As I cried, I wrote Kris Ann a letter ... saying goodbye and thanking her for all the light and love she brought to this world. I wrote down my favorite memories of her, many of which involved music and dancing.

Afterward, I sang the best rendition of "Me and Bobby McGee" I could muster through my tears. Of all the songs, that's what came to mind. Kris Ann loved that song and always requested I sing it at the top of my lungs ... we would laugh together and try to sing together the ending lines where Janis really wails... "Lord, I called him my lover / I called him my man / I said I called him my lover / Did the best I can" ... and end up laughing so hard we couldn't finish the song. This song brought her joy and laughter!

I recognize we are all trying to cope with loss and heartbreak in our own way. The times when we would normally gather with friends and family to grieve together and celebrate life together aren't really possible, so we find ways to honor our lost loved ones in different ways. Singing a song to Kris Ann and listening to her favorite music is my way of healing and celebrating her life. I realize that Kris Ann will always be with us and every time I hear a song that reminds me of her, I'll smile. —Yvette Slagle, cousin

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.