Hey Team Grimmie,
I don’t know about you, but it’s been a pretty long week over here. I am writing this final article on Christina mostly as a therapeutic measure for myself, but also because there is much I need to say. Please forgive me if it digresses into rambling a couple times. It’s going to be long and very honest. I’m gonna be bleeding into this one.
So after writing my original letter about Christina’s passing, I was not surprised to find that many of you had comments to share both with me and with the internet in general. There’s one idea in particular I’d like to address right away, as it seems to be burdening a lot of your hearts, as well as my own. There seems to be some level of internal guilt and confusion in how you should feel about missing Christina. So many people who had never formally met her, let alone had an opportunity to be her intimate friend, have expressed genuine devastation at her untimely departure. And most of those people seem to be wondering how that’s even possible.
For starters we need to talk about Youtube. We are of a generation where there’s a weird new type of relationship we can form with people via Youtube and similar video services. Popular Youtubers aren’t like other stars in mainstream media, whose acclaim and reputation are largely independent of their fans. If a Youtuber is well-known, it is directly because we give them attention and support. Because of that, Youtubers tend to develop a mutual appreciation for their fans and have a deeper connection with them than normal celebrities. The longer this goes on and the more each party learns about one another, the greater this strange bond becomes. We feel directly tied to the vloggers we love, because our respect fundamentally must go both directions, and so we feel like even if we don’t know them personally, the person on the other end of the screen is, to some extent, our friend, brother, sister, whatever. Sometimes a combination of things which otherwise don’t go together. There isn’t a neat category for this relationship.
In Christina’s case, she worked very hard to be as inclusive and interactive with her fans as possible, answering our questions, hugging us at concerts, inviting us to play games online, and generally being available to talk whenever she could afford it. Making it so you felt like friends was her goal. If you want to understand Christina a little more than just what has been recycled by the media in this last week, I encourage you to backtrack through her Youtube channel, zeldaxlove64. I have no doubts that if you’re confused as to why so many people seem distressed over her passing, you’ll quickly come to realize that, somehow, you might miss her, too. On my original article, I received this comment from somebody who had never heard of her before and did his research:
“How could I not know this girl existed? And now that I do know, why am I so sad that she is gone? That’s not fair. You can’t make me miss somebody who’s already gone.”
But it wasn’t just Youtube. “The Voice” requires direct input from its audience through a voting process to select its winners. Christina might have been the performer, the one with the skills, but we were the ones who acknowledged her abilities and voted for her to win. Then, again, we helped her rise up through things like the iHeart Radio Contest and other challenges and competitive fundraisers she’d entered (she did a lot of fundraisers). We have directly, consistently affected the outcome of her life, because we believed in what she was doing and that she deserved it.
Lastly, some people have expressed guilt at feeling like they lost “a sister,” and they regret feeling that way, probably because they think it devalues Mark’s loss, you know, since Christina was his actual sister. I understand where you’re coming from, but please do not beat yourself up over this, either. Mark is a mature man. He knows better than most the kind of thoughts people had towards Christina.
Do not feel bad for your sadness, it will only make recovery take that much longer.
Since writing the “Can I Say Something” article, I’ve also talked with people who personally knew Christina to some degree or another. A childhood schoolteacher who reflected on watching Christina play with friends at recess. People who met her in concerts. People she helped through hard times. I even managed to find the Facebook pages of her best friends, but they were understandably unresponsive to my attempts at contact. It’s for the best, probably. I do not want to intrude upon their grieving.
Christina was not just a face on a screen. She was not a distant entity, self-absorbed and narcissistic as many of today’s role models seem to be in popular media. Christina, true to the character of her namesake, was a compassionate and aggressively selfless human being. She was joy and hope. She caused people to love her, with minimal effort on her part.
Now, for just a moment, I’m going to spew memories and thoughts from the past half-decade of being a proud member of Team Grimmie.
Y’all remember how often people would ask her to do her monkey noises on camera, or do her freakishly accurate imitation of Pikachu? Remember when she said her favorite color was green, because that’s the color Link wears in The Legend of Zelda, and how she’s had a crush on him since she was, like, five years old? Or when she went into an actual days-long grieving period after she first learned “L” dies in Deathnote (spoilers, I guess).
Not to mention the time where she casually mentioned getting engaged to a guy named Ken during a live stream after somebody asked about the ring on her finger and the collective sum of her lovestruck fans lost their minds. The anime-goers among us sat back and reveled in her brilliantly playful deception, knowing she was talking about Tokyo Ghoul’s protagonist Ken Kaneki, who she was infatuated with just as she had been with many anime guys before him.
Or how about the bizarre vocabulary she made up and used on a daily basis, like ‘crubnuggets’, ‘squeeberries’, and deliberately misspelling normal words, like ‘yu’ and, of course, ‘frands’ (her term for all of her fans).
Or how her favorite animals were cows, her favorite candy was starburst, she had a bad habit of chewing her fingernails, and she named her keyboards after Ness and Lucas from Earthbound/Mother. Which, naturally, are also the names she would have given to her two sons if she could have had them.
Or the time she did a vlog while studying for her LA Driver’s permit, fully knowing it wasn’t going to help her be productive at all.
Or, Christina, how about when you got “All is Vanity” tattooed on your arm because you refused to undress for the record label you earned through “The Voice.” You wanted to do your career your way, so they dropped you. Looking around, you clearly didn’t need their help anyways.
Or that time Tyler Ward had you do a Snoopy impression, and all you did was lie on the ground and stare at the sky. (By the way Christina, he wrote the most tear-wrenching song for you. It hurts.)
Or how you ended every video with your signature and goofy “bye!”
Or when you lost your chill over the band Fun like, seventeen times.
Or that time on Twitch when one of your fans said they were auditioning for “The Voice” and was asking for advice and you went super professional on us. Or after the terrorist attacks in France you encouraged everyone to pray right there in the middle of a match of League of Legends. Or when you got to go mano-y-mano with “ZeRo”, the best Smash 4 player in the world (I have come to learn most of her Twitch.tv recordings have vanished).
Or how you had to psych yourself up for photo shoots at the beginning of your career, because it wasn’t intuitive for you to show yourself off or dress in high fashion. Another note towards your modesty.
Or how you met a fan wearing an “L” jacket, who immediately gave it to you. But of course you felt bad about simply taking it, so you traded jackets instead.
Or how you managed to take a Drake song and completely recompose it for a nation-wide audience, casting it in a much more fulfilling tone and meaning than the original track. This one still blows my mind a little.
Or how your dog Chloe would always photobomb your videos.
Or how you broke down in front of us on multiple occasions. Like when Pikachu was crying over Ash in Pokemon The First Movie, or when you went online just to encourage any of your fans who struggled with eating disorders or low self-esteem.
Or when we made those encouragement videos to Mama Grimmie to show support through her chemotherapy and you thanked us from the bottom of your heart.
Or when you sometimes showed your humanity. When you’d start to doubt yourself and we’d have to pick you back up, and help you celebrate in your victories.
Or when you were interviewed and they asked what your parents thought of their fifteen-year-old daughter putting music on Youtube and your mom was horrified that some strange man would come and hurt you.
Or that one tweet you sent a couple years ago. You know, the one where you had a dream that you died and said it was really scary and horrible.
Sorry. Give me a second. I need to go calm down.
You know, I have weird thoughts sometimes. I often wonder what was going through your mind after that first bullet hit you. I have thankfully been spared most of the visceral details (though my cursed imagination has done a swell job of filling them in for me), but we know you were hit multiple times, at least one of which was in the skull. You did not die until over an hour later. Somewhere in that miasma of pain and unconsciousness, how aware were you of the situation?
I like to think you knew. I like to think the reason you didn’t pass away from the start was because you knew how devastating it would be to so many people. I like to think you remembered recess with Sarah, Lauren, and all of your other friends, and wanted to make it through so you could go home and remind them how much you loved them. I like to think you wanted to go brag to Mark about your recent, perfect playthrough of Ocarina of Time (which he discovered after your passing, you punk). I like to think you’d miss the nights on the tour bus, screwing around and making memories with the band, those guys who always had your back. I like to think you couldn’t stand to leave before your mother, who had overcome four major battles against cancer to stay by your side.
I like to think your heart was breaking as you realized that, if you died in that moment, your best friends would be heartsick on their wedding days, because you would not be there to celebrate it with them.
I like to think you fought with every ounce of your body and soul to survive that attack.
I dreamed about it, actually. Not full-sleep, you know, but that weird in-between state when your mind is tired but your heart is racing. I saw you there in the emergency room, watching as the doctors tried to resuscitate you and stop the bleeding. You just kept screaming no and please at the top of your lungs over and over until your face turned red and your coiled body ached. You didn’t want to die. You didn’t want to leave your family like that, out in the waiting room, their stomachs feeling like peeled, rotting holes. You just kept shouting that same thing, begging, pleading for your body to move again. After it didn’t, and your heart stopped, still you lamented.
Then, standing there in the operating room, Jesus tapped on your shoulder from behind. He tried to get your attention, but you couldn’t hear him at first, because you wouldn’t stop screaming long enough for him to get your name out. So he stood there in the corner and waited, with his hand pressed gingerly against his eyes to ease the pain as he watched his daughter tear herself in half under the weight of her own sorrow. Eventually he tapped your shoulder again once you’d become too tired to scream, and your knees trembled too much to stand anymore. Without even looking, you barreled into him and cried your heart out of your ribs, because you finally realized no matter what you wanted, you weren’t going back.
He wrapped his arms around you, pulled tight like he was the only thing left that could keep you together, and wept into your hair that way where it feels like you’re screaming as hard as possible, but it’s trapped in the back of your head and the noise comes out in broken sobs between your teeth. That’s how he cried.
I’m so sorry. He said, sharing your tremble as you continued to cry into him. I’m so sorry, little one. I promise I’ll take care of them for you.
I like to think that’s what happened.
That scene among other imaginings have been the only things I could reliably think about for the last week. Christina, it feels like there’s a crack in my chest, and that’s amazing, because as we’ve already discussed, I never actually knew you. If it hurts this much just having a cursory knowledge, then I am horrified and nauseated for people who were closer to your life. I literally do not have the emotional capacity to understand how much pain they must be in.
Mark I am especially grieved for, and not just because we are both the older brothers of one sibling. I can’t imagine he has gotten any sleep in the last week. He watched a man commit suicide right in front of him. That is not an image he will ever be able to forget.
Let alone the sight of laying his baby sister in the ground.
You were his Player 2, his life partner. You were his inspiration. What is your family supposed to do now that you are gone? Christina, you were their world. They dropped everything in support of your dreams.
Among a million other tributes, there was a candlelight vigil to commemorate your passing. It took a while, but I found it on Sarah’s page. It is the only thing I am comfortable sharing of hers, because that was technically a public event. (Sarah, if you ever read this article, please forgive me. I might have walked through your personal memories a little. I wanted to see Christina through the eyes of her best friend. I get it now. I already knew you were cool because of your Above All That is Random videos, but it never really hit home exactly how precious you were to one another. And Lauren, if you see this, thank you for convincing Christina to be brave enough to sing online. Considering how shy she was, without you guys, she might never have pursued her dream.)
Christina, you were surrounded by wonderful people.
One of the first to give their piece at the vigil was your friend Pete, and the most memorable thing he said was that no matter how much success you found, you never changed. He reflected on the times you spent Christmas caroling, dancing, and making campfire memories. Then Sarah and Lauren got up there and spoke the lyrics to Switchfoot’s “This is Home,” which I came to learn is a song you wanted to sing for them during the Homecoming Week on “The Voice,” but you couldn’t get it legally passed in time, so you settled for “Some Nights” by Fun. Amazing foresight you had, to dedicate a song to your best friends about finally going to Heaven.
Then Mark got up to talk. I was absolutely floored by what he said, because it was only partly about you. He took a moment to speak about the Orlando shooting that followed the night of your death, and how, unlike you, the victims of those families do not have the convenience of a GoFundMe campaign which raised over 180,000 dollars. Those victims didn’t have Adam Levine offering to pay for their funerals. They didn’t have dozens of people paying them tribute by name, like Switchfoot, Justin Bieber, Nick Jonas, Soren Bjergsen, or Christina Aguilera. I mean, Selena Gomez broke down on stage while singing a Hillsong track. Nintendo held a moment of silence at E3. You know how many people get that who aren’t game developers? Zero. Only you. Even the LCS (official League of Legends organization for America) tipped their hat to you.
Mark wanted us to know the victims in Orlando need our love just as much as we’ve given it to you. He used your death as a pedestal to remind people the importance of praying and showing compassion to others. So it wasn’t just you. The entire Grimmie family is of exceptional character.
After you passed away, Mark said something else on social media. He wanted everyone to know the last thing you were doing before you got attacked. To Kevin James Loibl, the man who would be your murderer, you welcomed him with arms wide and inviting. Some critics will say that was a sign of naivety. Those critics do not understand the power of unconditional acceptance.
So I must reiterate from my first article: please do not hate mister Loibl. I have already seen plenty of what people have to think of him, and it terrifies me, because even though we have a motive for his actions now, there still seems to be no compassion for him. Instead, people wish horrible, cruel things on him, his soul, and his family, as if it weren’t that same insensitivity which create men like Kevin Loibl in the first place. By continuing to perpetuate this spirit of unforgiveness, you increase the likelihood that the ‘next Christina Grimmie’ will die similarly.
It is a condition I see being played out in real-time every single day, so please be good to one another.
Whenever I’ve been asked if I had a celebrity crush, I always defaulted to you. That has never really been accurate. I just couldn’t think of any other way to describe why I was so fond of somebody I’d never met. My feelings weren’t as much romantic as they were a platonic, fantastical admiration, though I’d be lying if I said the former was completely absent (refer to the beginning of the article again for why Youtube personalities don’t fit neatly into one category).
Something about your innocence and genuineness made me want to protect you, which is terrible, since that was kind of impossible. So at first, I prayed a lot, and that was the extent of my protection.
But I think somewhere in my spirit, I knew you were in danger. Earlier this year, I had this dreadful feeling I couldn’t shake. That’s why I started fasting so much. Every tour, I told myself I would fast one week for you. I did it at the beginning of the Rachel Platten tour, and then again for the entire month of April. That was a very difficult month, but I couldn’t help except to continue. Somewhere deep inside of me, there was an aching need for you to be okay, not only physically, but emotionally and spiritually as well. I knew you were changing the world, and I know from experience that the world would try to change you instead.
I try not to dwell on the fact that I started my fast for the Before You Exit tour several days late. I try not to think about how I thought it’s okay, she’s got this, she’s been safe on all the other tours. I should have already been done with that fast, but I was only on day three when I got the news you’d been shot. I try not to think it was at least partly my fault for being so lenient and starting so late. I try not to think about how I began bargaining with God, because I know that’s not how it works, but I couldn’t help it.
I try not to think about any of that. I’m sorry I couldn’t protect you.
I’d lost at least a hundred hours of sleep to you even before you passed away. Overactive imagination. I wish I could detail it all here, but that’s just not feasible. I thought about how one day I was going to have daughters, and I’d take them to your concert and introduce them to you. They’d be your biggest fans, and I couldn’t be more proud, because you were the kind of role model I wanted them to have. You always said the thing you cared about most was that you were a positive influence on others.
I thought about you opening presents on Christmas with your toddler sons. You’d buy Lucas his first keyboard, which Ness would end up liking more than him. Lucas would eventually feel isolated because he wasn’t good at music like his mother, brother, and (probably) father, but you’d help him find what he loved. Ness would cling to you like you were the entire world and watch you play piano for hours. No matter how old they got, or whatever bad decisions they made, they would always know you loved them.
You would have been a great mother.
I think about how I made that stupid plan. Operation: Prisma I called it, because, you know, I’m excessively dramatic. Prisma, because, as I put it, you were “refractory, the prism by which all lights must pass through to find their colors.” In it, I outlined how I would become an author, and then after I was popular enough, I’d join a team for an anime and we’d have you do the theme song. Or, if the anime didn’t work, then a video game where you could be the lead voice actress. I didn’t want to do any of this for some convoluted agenda. I just desperately wanted to find some way I could be your friend.
Since the day I found you, you were always the kind of friend I’d dreamed of having. You were the composite of everything I liked about people. Now that you’re gone, I’m scared I’ll never find that again. Even if I couldn’t sing, I’d been practicing a lot just in case I had the opportunity to sing with you. I was keeping a pocket of my heart open for the unimaginable. I’d fallen into your gravity, as many others had as well.
But as life is fond of enforcing, plans have changed. I can’t even listen to music the same way anymore, as all of the songs are being re-written one by one, with your heart between the lyrics.
So, here’s the new plan: I’m going to do the best I can. I’m not like you, with your inherent, bubbly enthusiasm, but I want to adopt some of that peace you kept in your soul. I want to expand my faith, I want to trust others more openly, even if it’s not easy. I’ll work at being less cynical, less critical. I’m going to grow stronger, read my Bible more, and smile as much as possible. I’m going to write and write and write until I write something that you would have loved. Then I’m going to go and get it published, no matter how many rejections I have to wade through, and when they ask what I want to put on that very first page of my very first novel, it’s going to read:
“As promised, the first one’s for you.
To Christina Grimmie, the Girl with a Full Heart.”
The more I think about it, I’m not surprised you died as early as you did. Our world cannot tolerate such bright lights strutting their stuff all across its four corners. You were too loud for its tastes, making too much of a difference too quickly. Through your Christ-like behavior and worship of the Father, you gave people strength to break addictions, overcome depression, and love themselves when they no longer wanted to love anything, least of all themselves. In hindsight, it seems only natural that the world would long to get rid of you.
That is what happened to the Son, after all.
If you’d been told you were going to die when you did, I’m not sure you would have lived your life any differently. Even though I know it’s not my place, a part of me wishes I could mourn and talk with your family. But I don’t see that happening, so I’ll just have to pray for them and lend my support any way I can. Maybe some day I’ll accidentally bump into Mark. That would be awesome.
To whoever made it all the way to the end of this long piece, I implore you to pray. Pray for Christina’s family, pray for her friends, her community, everyone who held her dearly. Pray for the victims in Orlando, and that we might someday find a way to cut down on so much unnecessary bloodshed.
When life hits you hard, don’t shut out the pain. Christina lived her entire life in suspense that cancer would finally take her mother away, but she still lived as brilliantly and joyfully as if cancer had never touched her life at all. Please do not medicate or drink away your sadness. Those feelings are important. How else are we supposed to mature in empathy, if we run away from it?
Should I happen to leave this world in an untimely way, I’ll make sure to remind Christina how much everybody loved her. If any of you happen to go prematurely, please do the same. Also, tell her I said not to make any of the angels jealous of her awesomely superior singing ability. She’ll probably blush, but say it anyways.
All across the internet there are stories of people who never knew Christina, but are coming to the Lord through her testimony and life. There are people with broken hearts being healed, and even more are finding strength and inspiration to make more of themselves than they would have done otherwise. People from Europe, Australia, Africa, and beyond. So congratulations, Christina. You did it. In only twenty-two years, through living, and in dying, you have changed the world.
Now, with a personal tweak on your own lyrics:
“I’m letting you go. I just want you to know, I’ll think of you.”
Thanks again, Christina, and I’ll see you later.
P.S. Hey dummy, you know that new Legend of Zelda game you were waiting so long for? They finally announced they’re calling it The Breath of the Wild. It looks awesome. You would have loved it.