It’s OK

Posted on August 31, 2022 by Lisa Thomas under Uncategorized
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She walked to the center of the stage with confidence—confidence that was tempered by the slightest case of nerves.  Her lean frame looked more like skin stretched across bone and her closely cropped hair provided a clue as to why.  During the pre-audition questions the judges learned it had been several years since she’d worked compliments of a cancer diagnosis which redirected her focus.  It was then she revealed the disease was still in her lungs . . . her spine . . . her liver.  After an awkward moment the observation came. “So . . . you’re not ok.”  And her response?  “Well, not in every way.”

The stage was that of America’s Got Talent.  Her name was Jane Marczewski, but she went by Nightbirde when she performed—something she’d been unable to do for a while.  Later videos revealed she’d been diagnosed with breast cancer in 2017.  At the news, her husband of five years divorced her, triggering a mental breakdown brought on by the stress of her illness and his abandonment.  In 2019 her doctors told her she had three months to live.  Six at the most.  Yet here it was—2021—and there she stood, fulfilling a dream, performing an original song called “It’s OK” . . . a song she had written to document the last year of her life.

As the final note faded away she stepped back from the microphone and waited, wrapped in a silence that must have seemed eternal . . . until the judges and the audience rose to their feet, acknowledging the literal performance of a lifetime.  As the applause subsided Howie Mandel noted the authenticity of her effort while Sofia Vergara called it powerful and heart-felt, leading Heidi Klum to observe that Jane’s uniquely beautiful voice had given her chills.  With a smile that lit up the entire stage, Jane made one statement that could easily have summed up her entire life . . .

“You can’t wait until life isn’t hard anymore before you decide to be happy.”

This woman, 30 years old, who was literally fighting for her life, who had thus far proven every doctor wrong, had determined she was going to be happy.  Whatever came her way, she had chosen to be happy.

During the after-performance interview Jane revealed she only had a two percent chance of survival.  But she reveled in that two percent. After all, “Two percent is not zero percent!  Two percent is something!  And I wish people knew how amazing it is.”

Simon Cowell had waited until last to render his judgement.  Despite his positive critique of her voice and her performance . . . his agreement that she had a truly authentic style in which she casually shared her story with them . . . he also noted there had been some great singers who had auditioned throughout the year.  And with that observation he looked at her and said, “I’m not going to give you a yes. I’m gonna give you something else.”  And then he reached for the buzzer that sends some lucky someone straight to the finals, and covered the stage in gold.

Months later Jane removed herself from the competition.  The disease she wouldn’t allow to keep her from dreaming had tightened its grip on her life.  She was going to focus on her treatments and her health and in a moving video conversation with the judges of America’s Got Talent, told the world “I think we’re witnessing such a beautiful picture of the human spirit and the triumph of the human spirit.  I think it’s restored my faith in humanity a whole lot.  To see people come together just over the fact that we all hurt . . . we all suffer and we all have the potential to overcome.”

Within 24 hours of the audition, her original song, “It’s Ok” topped the charts.  Today it has been streamed over ten million times on Spotify and viewed over forty-five million times on YouTube.  And in the midst of so much success and such a positive impact on the world, Jane Marczewski died on February 19, 2022.  But not before reminding the world . . .

“You can’t wait until life isn’t hard anymore before you decide to be happy.”

 

 

About the author:  Lisa Shackelford Thomas is a fourth generation member of a family that’s been in funeral service since 1926.  She has been employed at Shackelford Funeral Directors in Savannah, Tennessee for over 40 years and currently serves as the manager there.  Any opinions expressed here are hers and hers alone, and may or may not reflect the opinions of other Shackelford family members or staff.

 

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