CLEVELAND, OH – “You can’t wait until life isn’t hard anymore before you decide to be happy.” An Ohioan, Jane “Nightbirde” Marczewski of Zanesville, brought tears to my eyes with her story and song “It’s okay.”
The words leading off this story are from her June 8, 2021 appearance during the 16th season of America’s Got Talent. Marczewski also shared the following thoughts about her four year battle with a breast cancer that had spread to her spine, lymph nodes and liver.
“I have a two percent chance of survival. But two percent is not zero percent. Two percent is something. And I wish pe0ple knew how amazing it is.”
I didn’t know Nightbirde existed until February 21, 2022. Something drew me to a Youtube video that featured the top 10 performers who had moved Simon Cowell and I watched. I am not a television show watcher. I know the show exists through its constant presence in news headlines and Cowell’s publicity. I have no idea why I was drawn to caring and becoming curious about who had “moved” Cowell. I may have watched a week’s worth of the show in its 16 years. I was YouTube surfing for some background nap noise.
I watched the clips and listened to the stories and performances of the musical artists. Nightbirde, burn victim Kechi Okwuchi and at that time 10-year-old cancer survivor Tyler Butler-Figueroa I watched twice. Okwuchi was one of two passengers who survived Sosoliso Airlines Flight 1145 crash that killed 107 people in December 2005. While serving in the United States Air Force I’d met a fellow airman who’d been the single survivor of a C-130 crash in the Philippines.
Nightbirde’s beautiful voice blew me away. The lyrics to “It’s okay” were so in real time compelling I found myself singing it throughout the day. When I awoke from a nap after midnight on February 22, 2022 I wanted to hear her song again. That’s when I searched and learned that the February 21, 2022 day I was drawn to her music is the day Jane Marczewski died.
She appears to have breathed her last breath within hours after I heard her sing for the first time; and 8 months after her America’s Got Talent appearance. Marczewski did not make it to the “live” part of the show in August 2021 before her cancer fight consumed her time and energy.
I watched an Instagram recording Marczewski left of her final moments of life. She was justified in complaining about being dry, nauseous and not feeling human anymore. But she still found beauty in the knowledge that her family was traveling to share her last hours.
God has called home several members of my family and friendship circle in the last four years. A cousin the same day Marczewski died. He’s given me personal challenges to face that can consume my attention. With age comes the Lord’s “disease notices” that a life, health and goals taken for granted are coming to an end. The cancellation notice is on its way. Just not today. “Are you ready?” Nightbirde was 31. Whether we’re ready or not we have no choice but to “accept.” I found the words below from Marczewski’s blog.
“I don’t think it’s meaningless, the story that says God sculpted us from clay. Of all the things He made, humankind was the first that He touched. The first breath we tasted was His exhale. I don’t think it’s meaningless that the first time humanity looked up at the eyes of God, His hands were dirty and He was close.
Maybe we missed it—what God showed us when He first introduced Himself: that He will crawl into the dirt to be near us, and He will fill our lungs with air when we don’t know how to breathe.”
What I took away from Marczewski’s story, and of Okwuchi and Figureroa’s, is the “inspiration” that they had “accepted” the reality of having no choice but to accept their afflictions. They were choosing to live their best lives “in the moment.” Their appearances on America’s Got Talent came from a decision they made to say “yes” to a part of themselves they may have said “no” to in the past. Death was at their doorsteps but not today. Live. Better to die “being.”
“We’re all just a little lost but it’s okay.” It’s okay.