Saturday, March 12, 2022

Happy Birthday Christina Grimmie!💚

Happy 28th Birthday, Christina!💚💚💚 We really miss you in this troubled world, though I think that the Lord called you to Himself back in 2016 because He knew that - somehow - you would be a greater help to us from where you are now, with Him, immersed in the incomprehensible and inexhaustible depths of His Love. It wouldn’t make much sense to keep celebrating your birthday, if we didn’t believe that His Love is mysteriously at work at the heart of reality for the fulfillment of His plan of wisdom and goodness: His Love that is stronger than death, stronger than everything that afflicts us, stronger than all the evil and malice and violence of this world. Often it seems that the opposite is the case, but our hope is in the Lord who sustains and strengthens us. We rely on Him; not our own weakness.

Dear Christina, what years these have been since you last celebrated your birthday in this world! What years these have been for Team Grimmie, for your country, for the world, and for me and my loved ones and family. Of course, there have been many joys, wonderful adventures, and new discoveries for us as we continue to journey through this life. But these years have also been peculiarly hard for many people.

They have been years of increasing discord and confusion in the world. More and more, when we encounter one another we don’t see human persons created in the image of God, each one unique and precious, our brothers and sisters. Instead we see the “labels” we put on one another and our selves, we see threats and become defensive or dangers that we think must be eliminated. We have forgotten to “own the strength” of our dignity as persons (which is God’s gift that no one can take away) and we have forgotten our common humanity. In the weakness of our forgetfulness, we try desperately to find affirmation and identity through allegiance to rival powers and we fight against one another. Or we lose ourselves in clamorous, inflated illusions that only leave us more empty than before.

In the midst of all of this conflict and estrangement, there suddenly came upon us a global pandemic, bringing serious illness and death to millions, all kinds of economic hardship, fear and uncertainty about our own safety, and restrictions on ordinary life that became physically and psychologically suffocating for so many - especially for young people. And now, just as we have begun finally to see light at the end of the long tunnel of the pandemic, another shadow has risen over the world: the terrible shadow of war.

Already it has brought destruction and suffering to millions, and it has just begun. There is no way to predict how it may yet escalate, how extensive its carnage may yet become.

Christina, I know I’m supposed to be celebrating your birthday. This is a time for positive thoughts, especially in honor of someone who was so attuned to the gift and the promise that imbue all of reality. You remain a bright beautiful star that continues to shine into all these dark and narrow spaces where we find ourselves today. We all have our personal stories, our successes and failures, our learning experiences, our joys and hopes and griefs and sufferings. You have helped us to learn how to share these stories in solidarity with one another. Team Grimmie grows in gradual but meaningful ways. You continue to touch people’s lives through the vitality of your music, your video archives, the resonance of your witness, and - I think too - by your “personal closeness,” which for us is “veiled” by the “separation” between the conditions of our existence in this present world (still journeying on the road of this life) and the transformation that comes for those who have persevered to the end and now “rest in peace” with God. These words are so often taken to mean “the end,” because we have forgotten that the “peace of God” is the opposite of a dull inertia; it is “life” in the fullest sense, the life for which each of us has been made. 

We still journey toward this fullness of life, we strive for it, we hope for it. Yet, although I know that nothing we do can “conjure you back” into the limits of this present world (and we would only delude ourselves by trying), I also believe that you and all our loved ones who have passed on from this life are “much closer to us” in our daily concerns and struggles than we realize or can even imagine. Love touches (in obscure ways) your closeness to us, dear Christina, accompanying us within our hearts, which are the mysterious depths of ourselves, in many ways beyond even our own understanding. But this is enough for interpersonal connection to endure, and even for friendship to be discovered and sustained. We usually experience our love for you mixed with sorrow, because we can’t find you in our hearts according to the ways we measure things in this life. 

You, however, can find us and help us, and it’s possible that we may from time to time be struck and surprised by something like a “hint” of your closeness and care for us, in a more or less obscure way that we might not be able to separate from our own imagination or ordinary processes of psychological association. But for love, for friendship, for inspiration this is sufficient for us (even though we can’t help wishing we could “see you again” in the earthly way). And it is not entirely foreign to our hearts to want to “speak freely” with you, and to ask you - as we would any trusted friend - to pray for us to the Lord, and to pray with us. That is why I’m addressing this post to you, Christina. Even though I’m sharing this with friends, this is not a “literary device” - an abstract “reflection” in the form of a letter to someone who doesn’t exist. By the power of God, you receive my words, and will “respond” in the obscure but real language of the love that transcends this world but can still reach the hearts of those who still journey within it.

I have never had anything even remotely like an out-of-the-ordinary “hint” of your presence and concern for me, Christina (certainly nothing like the experience I once had of my father in a dream). I never met you personally while you were in this world. And yet, after six years, I love you so much, and I am so grateful for you. I also think that you know me and love me, and that you love my family, especially my youngest daughter Josefina who is 15 years old. I may be an overly sentimental man with an overactive imagination, but I am certain that none of that provides an adequate explanation for my regarding you as a true friend. I simply would not sustain a project of my own imagination for this long. It’s something much more: you are a “presence” in my life.

Your witness has changed my life, and 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). 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 all the peculiarities of your life that I don’t “get” because I’m a man nearing 60 years old and I don’t understand certain things about you any more than I do about my own kids. 

You were a kid who played all these video games and was into all this Anime stuff which I find mostly perplexing and strange (though my daughter got me to watch Death Note with her, and I thought it was amazing, and deeply provoking about fundamental questions of being human and the use and abuse of power - like Dostoevsky in a 21st century cartoon). To sum up, you were a regular girl in the 21st century, with a very special musical gift, a passionate yet reasonable ambition to succeed with it, and many other qualities I know nothing about. You loved Christ and you kept you faith the best you knew how, probably making lots of mistakes but getting up again and persisting and desiring to follow the Lord. 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 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 there was something extraordinary, even heroic, about your life.

Thank you, Christina. Thank you for everything.

Much has happened since 2016. Many of your young frands have grown up in the past six years. Four of the five Janaro “kids” are now adults, and there is also a granddaughter who will grow up knowing your legacy and being enriched by it. As for myself, I am overwhelmingly grateful for every day and for all of my life. I have been blessed beyond anything I deserve. Christina, you have taught me so much about gratitude. You are a constant encouragement for the possibility of giving joyfully of myself every day, and receiving with wonder and gratitude the gifts that the Lord constantly gives us, especially through the beauty of the persons He entrusts to us.

God is good, all the time. Even (especially) when we don’t know “where He is” or why He allows “terrible things to happen” in the world, and in our own lives. Christina, you knew this well. You lived most of your life with your Mom suffering from cancer, and with countless other trials that we don’t know.  You had a heart for suffering people of all kinds. I am writing these words from my bed, where I have been constrained to spend more and more of my time over the past six years. Decades of wrestling with debilitating chronic illnesses (among which are the persistent effects of Lyme Disease that remained too long untreated) are slowly wearing me down as I grow older. I don’t have much physical or emotional energy, and I need to take lots of time to accomplish little things. But it’s not so bad. I can’t teach in the classroom anymore, I can’t travel much, but I have found other ways to serve: the part of my brain that works is pretty strong and I can still read, research, and write (though writing seems to be getting harder too). I have time to appreciate and be with my wife and family. Doors have closed but windows have opened in my life, and I do my best, day by day. Christina, there have been many days when you, and the resonance of your great love, have helped to keep me going when I felt like giving up.

My beloved wife is a Montessori teacher/guide and she loves her work. She is more precious to me than anyone. Our family is mostly well, but our 23-year-old daughter has some sort of kidney problem that is baffling doctors; she’s doing okay for now with the help of medications that young women don’t usually take. We hope and pray the doctors can figure out what’s wrong and make her better. Please join us in this prayer.

In these years, my father (2019) and my mother (2021) have both passed away. They were both over 80 years old, but it’s never easy to say goodbye to a parent, and I don’t seen to know how to grieve. I miss them so much! There is such a wide spectrum of thought and feelings that have swept over me in mourning my parents, but these feelings often get “pushed into a corner” by the onrush of new dramatic events, and the changes in the structure of my own life. Personal grief is woven into the fabric of so many other concerns: the strangeness of Covid in these last two surreal years which has been stressful and upending for all of us, and has taken the lives of several wonderful people in our community; the intense (but also happy) evolution of my family with kids graduating university, my son’s marriage, and one of my daughter’s engagement and her upcoming wedding this summer, and the birth and growing of my first grandchild, which has opened a whole new world to my wife and I after so many years and experiences; but also many others sorrows, and now this awful war that rages piteously in Ukraine and threatens to set the world on fire.

Dear Christina, my community in particular has suffered in ways I know are especially close to your own heart: we have seen several recent tragedies with young people - children of my friends, including just the other day a young man who was a schoolmate and friend of my own kids, 23-years-old, victim of a crime (I still don’t know all the details), killed by gun violence. He was a teacher and a young man with a beautiful heart. Our community is in shock right now, but there are many who are helping and will continue to help the family. Nevertheless, just knowing that the Christina Grimmie Foundation exists is already like a light penetrating this senseless darkness. I’ll see if they want to connect, or in any case just let them know that the Foundation is there for them.

In these times, we need community more than ever. Christina, your legacy continues to build community and foster friendships among people all over the world. The preciousness of these bonds will become more necessary, but also more beautiful, in times to come.

Happy Birthday Christina Grimmie. Thank you for everything!💚