Friday, July 10, 2020

Why I Want to "Spend Time" With Christina Grimmie

I think I am beginning to understand why I do this, month after month. I make a graphic or sometimes write an article, virtually every month, on the 10th day (sometimes it spills over a day or two beyond that). Eventually, I post and share what I come up with, and some months the result is bigger and/or better than others. But ultimately the whole process is a kind of personal thing.

Once a month, over the past four years, I spend some time "visiting" with Christina Grimmie.

I go on a "journey" into the immense digital realm that still bears so many impressions and resonances of all the ways she offered herself and endeavored to be present to people all over the world. I watch, I listen, I read some words, and then - taking my own impressions or using fragments of media (words, lyrics, screenshots of momentary frames of video) as a basis for work with my own creative tools - I put together my own presentation. I hope that it has some value for others, but it always has value for me. The value above all is in the time itself, where I find that I receive so much more than I have given.

But why do I make this effort? Why do I revisit the "virtual remains" of a young woman who was taken from this world four years and one month ago - someone who I had no connection with nor even a particularly attentive interest in before she died? I don't think I can really fully explain why she matters to me, why I want to "be with her" in some meaningful way.

I have lots of other projects, ongoing research, interests, responsibilities. But I make time for Christina. The rest of the month, I might not think much about her or even listen to her music. But here's what matters: somehow Christina has worked her way into a significant place in my life. She has become "familiar" to me, in the sense that I care about her "like family." She is a reality in my life, with dimensions beyond anything I could construct by imagining or willing it myself. This would not be possible if it weren't for the fact that she is a real person. And over the past four years I have come to love this person.

Okay, I said I was "beginning to understand" what I'm doing each month. The "analogy" to family has shed a bit of light on it recently.

Since my father's death last year, I have discovered that the gesture of "spending time" with him is a very real and personal act (in this case, it includes actually visiting his grave, but also the many moments that come through so many other particular things that bring him to mind).

With my father, of course, I'm working through the mysterious experience of grief, but it's not simply a psychological exercise. It's spending time with a person. Because death - even with all its obscurity and strangeness and "distance" - is simply not the end of an interpersonal relationship. The relationship endures, not through weird conjuring tricks, but precisely the opposite: it remains woven into the course of "ordinary" life.

Part of the endurance of grief, and perhaps the way we begin to "make peace" with grief, is our growing "accustomed" (though never entirely) to this hidden continuation of the relationship with the one who has passed on - to the continuation of LOVE - which we express through simple gestures and which (occasionally) "surprises us" as something we receive from the other, something more than a past memory.

Companionship remains, and sometimes this makes it harder, but we want to bear it nonetheless. Grief does not terminate with forgetfulness of the other; it grows, slowly, into a kind of peace and humility in front of the great mystery of life and the particular mystery of that person we love. I am learning this road with my father.

But why does Christina Grimmie matter to me?

As you can see, I have been doing these posts and graphics for awhile.

I never met her, and didn't have any particular interest in her during her life or career. It was only when she died that I was really drawn to learn more about her. In time, I began to appreciate and be inspired by the beauty of her life, especially its "extraordinary-within-the-ordinary" character. I began to look upon her with a particular admiration, and I could say that I loved this young person. As everyone will say who learns about her life, it's hard not to love her. But what "surprised me" was the impression that I, myself, was being loved.

The most important thing to me about Christina is that she has befriended me. I really think this goes beyond general theological categories (such as "the communion of saints") or psychological phenomena related to her personal style of communicating which is still accessible on the Internet.

Those are all factors, certainly, but they do not satisfy me as sufficient to account for a very personal experience. I don't think I'm imagining this, because there are many other people who have only discovered Christina after her death who speak in similar terms. Others may have been frands during her lifetime, but now find (even in the midst of their sorrows) that she has become more important to them and more intimate to their lives.

Then, of course, those who knew and loved her best during her life on this earth have a different kind of experience, with a weight and depth that I can't begin to fathom. I wonder, perhaps, as time goes on whether they find some unexpected heights in the midst of the depths. Or perhaps some other ground where in some moments she walks with them, in a way we don't have words to describe.

In any case, it's personal. Even for myself, very much a latecomer to Team Grimmie, there is something personal, there is someone with whom I want to spend time. Though this friendship is very concrete, it is the opposite of exclusive! More than anything, that's why I'm moved to share it. I'm sure that other people who read this will recognize that the same kind of thing has happened for them.

I think Christina will continue to make new friends, and become more accessible to everyone even as she continues to be personally and "specially" available to each of us.