Jane “Nightbirde” Marczewski died the day I first heard and shed tears over her song “It’s okay”

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.

Eric Jonathan Brewer

Cleveland's most influential journalist and East Cleveland's most successful mayor is an East Saint Louis, Illinois native whose father led the city's petition drive in 1969 to elect the first black mayor in 1971. Eric is an old-school investigative reporter whose 40-year body of editorial work has been demonstrably effective. No local journalist is feared or respected more.

Trained in newspaper publishing by the legendary Call & Post Publisher William Otis Walker in 1978 when it was the nation's 5th largest Black-owned publication, Eric has published and edited 13 local, regional and statewide publications across Ohio. Adding to his publishing and reporting resume is Eric's career in government. Eric served as the city's highest paid part-time Special Assistant to ex-Cleveland Mayor Michael R. White. He served as Chief of Staff to ex-East Cleveland Mayor Emmanuel Onunwor; and Chief of Communications to the late George James in his capacity as the Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority's first Black executive director. Eric was appointed to serve as a member of the state's Financial Planning & Supervision Commission to guide the East Cleveland school district out of fiscal emergency and $20 million deficit. Former U.S. HUD Secretary Alphonso Jackson told Eric in his D.C. office he was the only mayor in the nation simultaneously-managing a municipal block grant program. Eric wrote the city's $2.2 million Neighborhood Stabilization Program grant application. A HUD Inspector General audit of his management of the block grant program resulted in "zero" audit findings.

As a newspaper publisher, Eric has used his insider's detailed knowledge of government and his publications to lead the FBI and state prosecutors to investigations that resulted in criminal prosecutions of well-known elected officials in Ohio; and have helped realign Cleveland's political landscape with the defeat of candidates and issues he's exposed. Eric's stories led to the indictments of the late Governor George Voinovich's brother, Paul Voinovich of the V Group, and four associates. He asked the FBI to investigate the mayor he'd served as chief of staff for public corruption; and testified in three federal trials for the prosecution. He forced former Cuyahoga County Coroner Dr. Elizabeth Balraj to admit her investigations of police killings were fraudulent; and to issue notices to local police that her investigators would control police killing investigations. Eric's current work has resulted in Cuyahoga County Judge John Russo accepting the criminal complaint he guided an activist to file against 24 civil rights-violating police officers in the city he once led for operating without valid peace officer credentials. USA Today reporters picked up on Eric's police credentials reporting from his social media page and made it national.

Eric is the author of of his first book, "Fight Police License Plate Spying," which examines the FBI and local police misuse of the National Crime Information Center criminal records history database. An accomplished trumpet player and singer whose friendship with Duke Fakir of the Four Tops resulted in his singing the show's closing song, "Can't Help Myself": Curtis Sliwa of New York's Guardian Angels counts Eric among his founding chapter leaders from the early 1980's role as an Ohio organizer of over 300 volunteer crime fighters in Cleveland, Columbus and Youngstown, Ohio. For his work as a young man Eric was recognized by Cleveland's Urban League as it's 1983 Young Man of the Year.

Known in Cleveland for his encyclopedic knowledge of government and history, and intimately-connected with the region's players, every local major media outlet in Cleveland has picked up on one of Eric's stories since 1979. There is no mainstream newspaper, television or radio outlet in Cleveland that does not include an interview with Eric Jonathan Brewer in its archives over the past 40 years.