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After A Mom Died From COVID-19, Her Kids Honored Her With Tab Soda


Kathleen Berger is one of the 230,000 Americans who have died from COVID-19. She was 73 years old and passed away in a nursing home in May. Pandemic restrictions on travel and gathering made it hard for her eight adult children who are spread across the country to celebrate her life. But just this week, after enormous effort, they toasted their mother with Tab - yep, Tab, that soon-to-be-discontinued diet soda.

MATTHEW BERGER: Guys, let's all raise a bright pink can one last time for mom. Mom, not a day goes by that we don't think about your smile, your warmth, your sense of humor, your sarcasm, your huge heart and your affinity for Tab. To mom - cheers.

SIMON: That's Matthew Berger, one of Kathleen's sons, who toasted his mother with that soft drink that was popular in the 1970s and '80s. His sister, Sarah Berger Kennie, organized the celebration - joins us now from her home in Elmhurst, Ill. Thanks so much for being with us.

SARAH BERGER KENNIE: Thank you so much for having me. I appreciate it.

SIMON: We loved getting to read about and know a little bit about your mother, but what was this thing she had for Tab?

KENNIE: Well, it started in probably the early '80s. She heard about this Scarsdale diet, and she found Tab at the same time and decided that she basically would drink Tab constantly. And I always remembered her laying on the bed trying to get her Calvin Klein jeans on (laughter) hoping that they would fit with this magical Tab. So then it just became just a habit of hers.

SIMON: Did you ever make any attempt to kind of calculate her volume of consumption? Let me put it that way.

KENNIE: I'd say probably six a day.

SIMON: Ooh. Ooh, ooh, ooh.

KENNIE: Yeah, if she could get away with that.

SIMON: And she liked the jingle.

KENNIE: Yes, she did. She used to sing it around the house.

SIMON: I've been trying to remember it. (Singing) Tab (vocalizing).

KENNIE: (Singing) What a beautiful drink.


UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: (Singing) Tab, Tab soda, what a beautiful drink.

KENNIE: And then it says (singing) Tab, Tab cola for beautiful people, which is her (laughter).


KENNIE: So - yeah, I mean, it's a very fitting song for what - who she is.

SIMON: I have to ask - she was in a nursing home, I gather, in the east when she contracted COVID...


SIMON: ...And died earlier this year. Were you able to see her when she fell sick?

KENNIE: I wasn't. She fell sick, and they moved her to the COVID ward. And my brothers would go look at her through the window and Zoom call us. And I could see her through that. She kind of deteriorated pretty quickly, so it was hard to get there in time to say goodbye.

SIMON: And I have to ask - Tab is being discontinued, I gather, at the end of the year, but it hadn't been easy to find for a number of years. How did you find it to come up with a final toast?

KENNIE: I called probably 30 to 40 stores. Finally, after, say, over a week of trying, I got a tip from someone on Facebook, and they said that the grocery store in DeKalb, Ill., had it, she heard. It's about an hour, two hours round trip. And we grabbed my 3-year-old, put him in the car, and my husband and I raced over there. And I walked in, and it was sitting by, like, customer service. And, you know, it was a very emotional feeling because she would have loved it.

SIMON: I'm sure she did love it. What thoughts or memories are you holding close of your mother this week in particular?

KENNIE: I think of the past and how she was such an amazing mother and person. It's like she was put on this earth to be a mom. Having that feeling of us toasting to her with the Tab, knowing that it was going away like she went away this year, was kind of symbolic. And, you know, my family and I really - it really meant a lot to us.

SIMON: Sarah Berger Kennie in Elmhurst, Ill., speaking about her mother, Kathleen Berger, who died from COVID-19 earlier this year. Thank you. We are holding thoughts of your mother, too. Thank you very much for being with us.

KENNIE: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.