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67-Year-Old Arkansas Woman, Who Died Of COVID-19, Remembered By Her Daughter

NOEL KING, HOST:

Sandra Ugartechea-Vaughn lost her mom to the coronavirus this month. Her mom, Alicia Ugartechea, is one of the more than 400,000 people who have died from COVID-19 in the U.S.

SANDRA UGARTECHEA-VAUGHN: I went up to the hospital myself with my dad. And we watched her through a glass door and basically said goodbye.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Alicia Ugartechea, who was the matriarch of her family, died in her hospital room at the age of 67.

UGARTECHEA-VAUGHN: It hurt because she had to be alone the whole time. We're a really close family, so it's hard not having her here.

KING: Her mom was born in Mexico and immigrated to the U.S. in her 20s. She worked for two decades as a custodian at an elementary school and also ran a sowing and alteration business out of her home in Hot Springs, Ark.

INSKEEP: And if Alicia wasn't busy working, she was surrounded by her grandchildren.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

ALICIA UGARTECHEA: Who's my baby?

JACE: (Babbling).

UGARTECHEA: Yes.

INSKEEP: Sandra's phone is filled with videos of her 2-year-old son, Jace, smiling as his grandma holds him.

UGARTECHEA-VAUGHN: I think about when I drop him off in the morning to go to work. I'd lay him in bed with her. And the first thing she'd do is always have her arm out so that I would lay him on her arm. And she'd snuggle him.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UGARTECHEA: (Non-English language spoken). Bye, mama.

JACE: (Babbling).

UGARTECHEA: (Non-English language spoken).

JACE: (Babbling).

UGARTECHEA: (Non-English language spoken).

UGARTECHEA-VAUGHN: A lot of candid shots of her just holding him.

KING: She's keeping those memories close now. When her mom was in the hospital, she was put on a ventilator.

INSKEEP: Sandra could not go in to see her, was on the other side of a glass door. But a nurse was able to pass through and came out to report that Sandra's mom gently squeezed her hand.

UGARTECHEA-VAUGHN: Even though she was kind of shutting down, she was still like, no, I'm here. I'm still fighting. I'm not going anywhere. But, you know, her little body couldn't take it. And I just hope that I could be just as strong as she is - or she was.

(SOUNDBITE OF TRENT REZNOR AND ATTICUS ROSS' "JUST US")

KING: There is this video her mom posted on Facebook last summer. It's a sunny morning in June. And she's sitting down with her grandkids on her patio.

INSKEEP: She goes around the table so the kids can say prayers before breakfast.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UGARTECHEA: (Non-English language spoken).

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD #1: Thank you, Jesus, for this food. And bless it to our bodies. Amen.

UGARTECHEA: Amen.

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD #2: God, please, let everybody that's sick get better. And, please, let our whole family be healthy. I love you. Amen.

UGARTECHEA: Amen.

KING: And then, she turns to 2-year-old Jace, who's sitting in his high chair.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UGARTECHEA: You?

JACE: (Snorting).

(LAUGHTER)

INSKEEP: Remembering Alicia Ugartechea, a custodian, seamstress and grandmother who died from COVID-19.

(SOUNDBITE OF TRENT REZNOR AND ATTICUS ROSS' "JUST US") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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