Sunday, December 10, 2017

Christina Grimmie's Gift of Herself

The live streamed Stageit concert that Christina Grimmie gave from her home on December 21, 2014 is still archived in several places on YouTube. My daughter Josefina and I were watching it again this afternoon.

Today happens to be 18 months—a year and a half—since the Lord called this outstanding young woman to Himself at the age of only 22.

If you love Christina Grimmie, you know how each one of these videos is precious. There is, above all, the collection of videos she made for her own channel (the famous "zeldaxlove64") but there are also other videos from television appearances, and then many taken and preserved by people who attended her concerts, or who recorded some of these originally live streamed audiovisual media events and subsequently shared them on YouTube.

This "Christmas Concert" from 2014 is a special gem. She spends an hour or so playing the keyboard and singing songs (some Christmas songs, others regular songs), while interacting with a global audience via a message feed. The sound quality is basic, and the video gets choppy or breaks off from time to time. Live streaming on internet platforms has been improving technically in recent years and will no doubt improve a great deal more. But the relatively primitive nature of the medium does not prevent her from shining through.

At the close of 2014, after an amazing year as a finalist on Season 6 of The Voice, a year in which she sang on television and on large, elaborate stages, she ends up—once again—in her room with her piano keyboard singing on the internet. But this was originally done "live," so there are no edits. The freshness and spontaneity of the original global Team Grimmie hangout with Christina remains vivid.

She expresses herself with an indescribable combination of courageous, unaffected confidence and a kind of (I don't know if this is the right word) "shyness" ...but not in a negative way. Rather it is a striking absence of guile and self-preoccupation, a sense of humor about herself, and a transparency in the way she responds to persons and things. She is genuine and full of goodness, with an innocence that is not naive but, on the contrary, intelligent and brave. The beauty and value of innocence and goodness radiate out from her and draw other people in the same direction.

It no longer surprises me that so many kids who interacted with her and followed her say things like, "she changed my life."

The truly remarkable quality of Christina Grimmie as a person, however, is a discreet and gentle thing. It's easy to "not notice it" (especially for us grownups). We could watch this or some other of her videos and say, "Oh what a sweet person" and then return to our life of complicated thoughts and ambitions and prejudices.

If we at least take time to listen to the music, we will recognize her extraordinary talent. Here she is, without the high tech of a studio or sophisticated equipment, without retakes, just dealing out one great song after another—fresh, creative interpretations of even her own songs, entirely carried by her actual voice, with all of its agile strength, stunning range, and breathtaking versatility.

But even if we notice the music, it's easy to miss the greatest thing: the way she loved, the way she gave of herself. It can take some time for us to notice the persistence and ardor of this self-giving, which takes shape in so many little things: in gestures, in the way she carries herself, in the way she speaks and in the generous effort to put herself forth.

Somehow, she uses this medium as a way to be present, insofar as is possible, to every person watching. But she is not invasive. She does not push, but rather creates a kind of relational dynamic of openness and welcome that is enthusiastic but not intrusive. She generates an environment, a space where you can feel at home "with" her, in some sense. It's a humble thing, which makes it easy to miss, but precious to discover. There is love invested in what she does, love that anticipates the encounter with people, that goes out to meet them.

And it's still possible for her love to reach us now, even though her life on earth was ended by an act of incomprehensible violence, 18 months ago.

Violence comes and goes in time, but love endures. Christina Grimmie's gift of herself (which includes her music and so much more) continues to be real just as she continues her real life as a person in and through the mystery of God's merciful love.

The joy that is visible in her life remains accessible, pointing to the promise of a fullness of joy that we are all called to share forever.