Saturday, June 10, 2023

Seven Years Later: Thank You Christina Grimmie

It has been seven years since Christina Grimmie was called home to God. It was a moment like so many other moments in the life of the 22-year-old singer, musician, and YouTube pioneer: a moment in which she stretched out her arms to “welcome a stranger” at an open meet-and-greet after a concert in Orlando, Florida on the night of June 10, 2016. Her final gesture was an offering of unconditional love.

Dear, dear Christina… I wish I had known you better in this world. It was only after being stunned the next morning by the news of an awful tragedy — and seeing the incredible outpouring of sorrow and tribute from so many people on Twitter, including some of the most famous people in the music industry — that I really began to pay attention to all that you had given in your brief life: all the amazing music and all the ardor of your great heart that continually reached out to encourage and inspire people.

Dear Christina, seven years ago you were taken from this world, and I stand in solidarity with all those who continue to mourn or feel the pains of grief (especially your Dad, your brother, family, friends, and all the “frands” of Team Grimmie who were so precious to you). Yet for me, personally, this day marks not only sorrow. Seven years ago, your witness began to change my life. In a gradual but steady way during that Summer of 2016, you became a great inspiration to me. And over the past seven years, you continue to grow more important to me, and more relevant to my life. 

You continue to “help” me to see meaning in my suffering, and encourage me to trust in God even when terrible things happen. You have awakened my heart to a hope for the younger generations (including my kids’ generation) that I didn’t have before. You have helped me to see that the future of our society is not without hope, that the light still shines in the darkness, in deep places of darkness that I thought it couldn’t penetrate. I can’t point to any particular video or song or gesture and say “there it is; that’s what makes Christina Grimmie different — that’s what makes her so special” in this personal sense (musically it’s a different story — musically you were prodigious, incredible, a legend, but that’s obvious to anyone who will listen). But it’s the “whole Christina” who is extraordinary as a person: it shines through in your whole self, not only your faith, generosity, and openness to people, but also in the countless small gestures and tenderness that we can still revisit in your YouTube and social media archives.

You had many great talents and outstanding qualities, but you were also funny, vulnerable, and genuine in your struggles to become a fully grownup woman (just like my own daughters—each in her own way—are doing now). You worked very hard on your music and in mentoring young people. You were never self-absorbed, and never fake. You were confident in your craft but also self-effacing in your overall attitude, and always full of gratitude. Above all your faith shaped you, it was the joy in all you did, it was the impetus that was transforming all your concerns into a vocation to love and give yourself, to go deeper, to love the Lord and others (especially your frands) radically, beyond the “limits” of ordinary human love. And I think that extraordinary love moved you and was with you in the end…

Christina Grimmie, you were a human being, deeply human but also different — by which I mean “different” in a way that points toward what my own heart yearns for: you loved greatly, you gave of yourself and welcomed and affirmed others with such vitality, because you had a powerful awareness of the immenseness of God’s love for you in Jesus Christ, and of God’s love for everyone. That’s what struck me about you, and after watching many videos and reading many posts it finally got through to me, that your life was suffused with an extraordinary, even heroic, quality.

Because of you, Christina Grimmie, I am a little less afraid of my own death. I am a little less afraid to open my arms and welcome whatever God offers me each day, to welcome each moment with love.

Thank you, Christina. Thank you for everything.