In Memoriam: Christina Grimmie, My Friend


Christina with my Grandmother at my wedding

My wedding reception had just finished and I was trying to get back to my room to change shoes. After hobbling up a flight of stairs with throbbing feet and a cumbersome dress I realized that I did not have a card key to access the lodge hallway where the bridal party rooms were located.  As I was debating if I could make it back downstairs on my own, and honestly starting to feel quite lonely, a graceful, quiet soul appeared on the landing where I was waiting.  I explained to Christina my predicament, she helped me get in, and then we walked together to our neighboring rooms.

I will never forget this moment.

She told me how beautiful I was. I told her how beautiful she sang.  I thanked her for coming to make my wedding so special.  She thanked me for the opportunity to be a part of our story.  And then I told her something that proved to be more true than ever in the following years. I told her that while we may not be related by blood, her family was our family and I couldn’t imagine celebrating that day without them.  Their family, as she reminded me in that moment, liked to tell everyone that my family are the nicest people they know. But in that moment I knew the truth of who the nicest among us truly was.  We hugged, and we went our own ways.

Yesterday, Christina Grimmie went from ushering others to worship at the throne of the Lord through her beautiful life to standing before Him in heaven at the age of 22.

For those who are left behind, for those experiencing a tremendous grief, for those trying to make sense of the senseless, for those wishing they could just do something, this one is for you.

This is the Story of the Son of God

Hanging on a cross for me*

She was loving.  Christina’s love was genuine.  She loved her family, her pets, and her fans.  She loved music.  In an age full of manipulation and image crafting, Christina was true to herself and how God made her.  She was determined to be faithful to who she was and who God was calling her to be.  She ignored voices telling her to be or do something she wasn’t because she knew her fans and she had a vision for how to love them and minister to them through pop music. She loved others and she loved herself for she knew that God loves us all.

The causes she supported with her celebrity weren’t publicity stunts, they were accurate reflections of her heart.  When she said she loved her fans, she really and truly meant it with her whole being.  She received her success with deep humility, and used it to tirelessly serve those whom she inspired.  Christina gave to her family, just as they gave to her.  She sacrificed for others, and she sacrificed for God.  To all of us who had the privilege of knowing her personally, we know the depth of the love she offered and modeled.  Christina Grimmie was loving.

But it ends with a Bride and Groom

Standing By a Glassy Sea

She was faithful.  Christina’s faith was real.  It truly permeated her life and influenced her decisions, even at a young age.  Through her knowledge of scripture to her prayer life, she privately practiced the faith she came so publicly to claim.  She faced plenty of challenges, disappointment, failures and deep pain in her young life, and yet she always turned to God for healing and guidance.  She might not have been recording “Christian” music or serving on a worship team, but no one who knew her could ever charge that she sought to use her gifts for anything other than the Glory of God.  Christina Grimmie was faithful.

Oh, Death Where is Your Sting 

Because I’ll Be there Singing

She had hope. I remember when she and her friend Sarah were very young and first spent a visit at our home writing songs that they asked to perform for us before leaving.  These mini concerts became a regular tradition for our get togethers with the Grimmie’s, long before Christina uploaded her first video to share with the world.  I can earnestly say that watching God’s hand unfold in her life story from early childhood until now has inspired me time and again in remarkable ways.  God gave her a vision and a dream early on in her life and she believed in it with abandon.

She believed in it so much that she kept working toward it, tirelessly, endlessly, passionately, even when she had no clear path for success.  She had hope that God meant what he was speaking over her heart and into her life.  She had hope that no matter the obstacles, He could bring it to pass and that He would not forget her and her dreams.  She had hope that no matter the number of closed doors she encountered along the way, there was still a future for her.  For those of us who saw that hope in a young girl from South Jersey singing from our balconies and in our living rooms, who was self-taught and self-driven, we saw hope in action.  Christina Grimmie had hope.

Holy, Holy, Holy Is the Lord Almighty

She transformed others for good.  As Christina was performing on The Voice, I heard God speak over her an anointing while we were watching her cover of Drake’s song, “Hold on. We’re going home.”  What I heard that night was a reminder that this, too, was a manifestation of the gospel.  What she had accomplished was an act of taking something that seems to be worldly and hollow at its core and transforming it into something truly beautiful and meaningful.  So many of her covers infused this love and beauty into whatever she chose to sing.

The secret to her professional success in this world, beyond her talent, unique personality, and infectious joy, came in how she used her artistry to touch our hearts and remind us that there really is a Creator of this universe who is Love.  God used Christina’s life, as I believe He will continue to use her earthly legacy, every time she breathed His life, the life and freedom of Christ, into the music she performed.

As her family, her friends, her fans, we were all touched by her time walking along side us and we can honestly say that we are better off having known her.  She helped to transform our lives through her kindness, her testimony, and the work of her hands.  Christina Grimmie transformed others for good.

Who Was and Is and Is to Come

Her story is not over.  For those of you, like myself and my family, who have followed Christina’s journey from childhood on up, there is a particular pain to see her name so publicly renowned today.  We all prayed and hoped and believed a day would come when she would reach this level of recognition for her talents.  Never, never, never, could we have ever imagined that day would come because of how she died.  It is almost too much, too cruel.

It does not end like this.  It does not end in tragedy, just as it did not start in tragedy.  The headlines that now bring her story to the rest of the world are neither the beginning nor the end.  Much like the Savior she loved, the tragic and heedless nature of her death may call attention to her life, but it does not define who she was, is, and will be.

We will miss her here.  We will miss her so much.  We will miss her and all the things we will miss out sharing with her in this earthly life that ended so soon.  I recall on my wedding weekend talking to Christina and her mom at different times about how she was so inspired by the story of how my husband and I met through the divine hand of God.  I remember how she said our story gave her hope for what kind of man God had in store for her, in His timing, and the importance of waiting on God to fulfill these desires of your heart.

In so many ways, it hurts knowing that she never met that man on earth and that we will never have the joy of celebrating her wedding together, as she so powerfully helped me celebrate mine.  And yet – and yet – I know that Christina met her bridegroom last night while she stood all in white.

Her story has just begun.  Her life, her eternal life, began anew last night.  If we thought that she sang beautifully in this earth I can only imagine just how glorious she sounds today.  I know that her life and her heart is fulfilled.  I know that she is loved in ways we can only dream of.  I know that she is whole.

Each time we think of her life and the way that God used it, we continue her story here as well.  When we listen to her music, or watch her videos, or tell others about her, we continue the act of transformation she began.  When we think on how much she was and did in her 22 years and we choose to be and do even a fraction of that with our own, her story lives on.  When we choose to love, to be faithful, to hope, and to use our gifts to transform this world for good, we keep her life’s purpose alive and we point to the life that she now lives.  Christina Grimmie’s story is not over.

This is the Story of a Bride in White 

Singing on Her Wedding Day

Of the God who was and is to stand before a Bride who Sings

Holy, Holy, Holy, Is the Lord God Almighty


* The words in Italics are the lyrics to the song “Holy (Wedding Day)” by City Harmonic.  This was one of the songs Christina sang at my wedding.  It is the song that she sang as I walked down the aisle on May 11th, 2013.  Never before has this song meant so much to me.  Our glassy sea was upon the shores of Lake Tahoe.  Hers are the glorious seas of Heaven.

Out of a Silent Place

We live in an age where volume matters.  Speak a lot and speak often and you will be heard.  Twitter and other social media outlets might encourage brevity of thought, but they do so with a necessary reliance upon a high frequency of broadcasts.  The more you post, the more often you keep things fresh and new, the higher the likelihood that you will attract a following.  Silence spells the death of your presence, your following, and your voice.

But can this need for noise be damaging?

Perhaps you have also taken notice of the interesting twitter phenomenon of stars pledging to stop tweeting for charity.  No, you don’t get to donate money for them to shut down their accounts, as lovely of an idea that might be to some of us.  You actually are asked give your cash to some cause until X dollars are raised with the promised reward of returning the celebutante’s vapid content to the tweet stream that much faster.  Heaven help us if we don’t know what the star of E!’s latest reality TV show is thinking at hourly intervals!

As I am not one to regularly chastise philanthropic efforts, no matter how inane, oddly manipulative, or misguided the means of fundraising may be, I applaud the willingness of the stars to “use their fame” for something other than purely shameless self promotion.  But is this really what our society, our communal networking, and our “relationship” building has come to?

We are losing all sense of the need for proper silence in our culture.  As a result our journalistic integrity, our potential to produce social sages of value, and our communal ability to identify and listen to voices of true wisdom are all severely hindered and in danger of extinction.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer in his early work Life Together, penned:

The mark of solitude is silence, as speech is the mark of community.  Silence and speech have the same inner correspondence and difference as do solitude and community.  One does not exist without the other. Right speech comes out of silence, and right silence comes out of speech.

We must value such a right silence and the words of those who seek it.  It is hard to imagine what some of the greatest minds in history would have done if faced with the rapid means of communication we have today.  Perhaps some, like good ole Benjamin Franklin and his amorphisms made famous in Poor Richard’s Almanac, would be just as influential, if not more so, than they ever were in the eras of quills, print shops, and engravings.

But what concerns me is the following query: which voices might have been lost amid the chatter?  Wit and depth are not guaranteed to be one and the same and often deep thoughts take time to formulate and some length to express.

So I wonder, which of those great men and women whose shoulders we stand upon today might never have been heard if they were living in our age of 140 characters or less?   Who might have been left out if they were expected to produce something new and clever, not just every week, but every day, or even every hour, in order to be deemed “relevant”?

Certainly these issues touch on larger cultural shifts such as a lessening of our attention span and our drift into becoming what I would call a post-literate society.  But what I want you to consider, perhaps as a starting place to address these broader concerns, is where there might be room in your life and community to encourage a right silence and thereby inspire a right speech.

We cannot forget that a vital part of being active and vocal members of our communities is to, on occasion, be silent.  Sometimes this might mean being silent at the dinner table or seeking periods of solitude for prayer and reflection upon the Word of God.  Other times this might mean stepping away from the microphones of our lives; be they blogs, status updates, tweets, or perhaps for some amongst us even speeches, interviews, or leadership roles.

There can, of course, be wrong ways to be silent or approach solitude.  When I was in high school a classmate a few years ahead of me infamously pledged to not speak for a year and upon his successful completion of the task ended up on several talk shows to share his “enlightenment” from this experiment with the world.  I still wonder at whether much good came from this stunt to him or to others.  Our silence must not come out of selfish motives but from a genuine desire to be strengthened through the silence in order to build up the community that we are already a part of.  As Bonhoeffer clarified:

One who wants fellowship without solitude plunges into the void of words and feelings, and one who seeks solitude without fellowship perishes in the abyss of vanity, self-infatuation, and despair.

Silence can be just as powerful as speech, for both good or ill.  Yet this relationship between right speech and right silence is one we would do well to mind. As we live in very interesting times, we are in desperate need of voices who can offer a hurting and groaning world the right words in the right moments.

So let us not forget, even amidst the seemingly unstoppable waves of technological development and addictive reliance upon social media, that for every right speech there must also be a right silence.

There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:

a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak…

Ecclesiastes 3:1,7

This essay was originally posted in a slightly different version on my tumblr blog on June 25, 2011.