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Lewis Kirsch, 57: Grateful Dead's 'Morning Dew'

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

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

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

Corrected: March 28, 2021 at 12:00 AM EDT
An earlier version of this story incorrectly said that Lewis Kirsch was 56. He was 57.