When Jane Marczewski walked onto the stage of America’s Got Talent in June of last year, she didn’t exactly raise any alarm bells. My late dad would have called her a “little thang.” Small and thin, with a head covered in very short hair…that was pretty much Jane in a nutshell. A good gust of wind could have blown her over. However, there was one thing that did stick out in a noticeable way-her smile. Everyone noticed that. The lot fell to Howie Mandel to ask the opening questions that every contestant gets asked. Howie covered the basics and we all quickly learned that Jane was 30 years old and was from Zanesville, OH and that she had made the trip to AGT by herself. We also learned that she went by “Nightbirde” when she sang. Little tips like that are helpful when you’re trying to get to know a contestant. On most occasions, after a sentence or two of personal information, the act begins, along with the judging. In Nightbirde’s case…things were different. When she said she was going to be singing an original song called, “It’s Okay,” it only led to more questions. What was the song about…etc? It was during this part that we learned Jane was battling cancer and had not worked in a really long time. Simon Cowell asked Jane how she was doing “now.” Jane responded with a sentence that gripped, not only the four judges, but also the viewing audience around the world. She said at her last doctor visit, she was told she had cancer in her lungs, spine, and liver. You could have heard a pin drop…literally. The smiling young lady from Ohio, who was about to sing an original song called, “It’s Okay,” had cancer…and everyone could tell it didn’t sound promising at all. In fact, Howie commented, “So you’re not ok.” Jane responded, “Not in every way, no.”
I won’t replay all the dialogue or even the song itself. It’s enough to note that it was a special night in a lot of ways. Nightbirde’s song was deeply personal and touching. Nearly everyone was in tears, including Simon Cowell. When she finished singing, there was an eerie silence in the packed theater. People didn’t know what to do. After a few seconds, the applause kicked in. Simon Cowell gave Jane the coveted Golden Buzzer. Jane’s song was a hit. In the days following the show, it soared to number one on iTunes and trended at number 2 on YouTube.
Most are probably wondering why I would choose to write a blog about a contestant on America’s Got Talent. To be honest, I’m kinda shocked myself. I’m not a devoted fan of these type shows by any means. But Jane caught my attention that night. Her story and her song were powerful. Behind it all lay a smile that the better part of most viewers couldn’t possibly understand. Immediately following her Golden Buzzer, we quickly found out just how sick she was. She had walked onto the stage that night with a 2% chance of survival…yes, you read that right. She was thankful for the 2%. Most folks with odds like that would not even mention the 2% as their focus would rest on the 98% chance of dying. But not Jane. Nightbirde had a different set of wings.
I decided to write this blog for a very simple reason…Jane Marczewski…aka “Nightbirde,” was a Christian…a Christian who found the strength to stand before millions of people and sing her heart out, grateful for a 2% chance of survival. Just a few short weeks after her Golden Buzzer audition, Jane had to withdraw from AGT due to Stage 4 breast cancer. She would address the AGT crowd via a video call and explain her situation. Simon Cowell fought the tears as he tried to encourage and thank the special young lady who had stolen their hearts. Once again, tears would flow as her smile lit up the screen. The young lady had endeared herself not only to the judges and the AGT personnel, but also to millions sitting in their living rooms who were blown away by her courage and confidence in the face unspeakable circumstances.
Jane Merczewski passed away February 19, 2022, in San Clemente, California at the age of 31. In her final months, she posted a few personal videos. I managed to watch a couple of them. The smile was there, but the strength was fading as the cancer was taking over at an alarming rate. I was reminded of a quote by a Clear Creek professor, named Dr. Clark, who spoke in chapel when one of our beloved professors, Bro. Ben Baird, lost his battle with cancer. Dr. Clark was his best friend. He walked up to the pulpit in the chapel and told us about his years of friendship with Bro. Baird. In an effort to offer us all some consolation, he told us about his passing. Dr. Clark said, “Christians die well.” His sweet words found their mark that day…and helped a bunch of young preacher boys deal with the loss of someone we all loved and were missing terribly.
Nightbirde departed this world with a confidence that is truly a night and day difference from how many depart. We can’t help but be impressed with this lady who was literally staring death in the face and didn’t flinch because of her solid faith. Dr. Clark would say she did, indeed, die well. Her trust in her Savior carried her through a very difficult valley to a place of rest. As Christians, we, too, will die well in our own time. God, alone, knows such things. Our task is not to try and figure out the times we will die. Rather, our goal should be to “live well” so we will be prepared to die well when that time comes. The days God grants us are opportunities to make those days count. We should take heart, be encouraged, and press on. And when death does come…that, too, will be a part of our story…and something we can do well. Jane trusted God with her life…and her death. We should take notes…for it made all the difference.
Blessings my dear friends. Glad to be writing again. Hope to get the rust off my fingers. Love you guys.