Update: Jane Marczewski, the singer-songwriter who was given a 2% chance to live and who got even Simon Cowell teary-eyed with her "America's Got Talent" audition last summer, has died of cancer at age 31. Marczewski, who went by Nightbirde when she sang, had gained an enormous and devoted following with her beautiful voice, her raw vulnerability and her gratitude for every minute she was given. (Seriously, scroll down and watch her audition if you haven't seen it. It was incredible.)
Jane's family shared video message on her Instagram account, in which she explains how sadness and grief can go hand in hand with gratitude and hope, and it's a lesson we can all take something from. Rest in peace, beautiful Nightbirde.
The piece below was originally published on 6.10.21.
All of us face challenges in life, but some people also face challenges to life itself. For 30-year-old singer Jane Marczewski, who goes by Nightbirde when she sings, those challenges are real and immediate in the form of her third round of cancer. Prior to her America's Got Talent audition, scans showed cancer in her lungs, spine, and liver. Her prognosis was daunting—six months to live and a two percent chance of survival.
But to hear her tell it, that small chance is a gift. And hearing her sing about the last year of her life is enough to inspire even the most cynical among us.
She doesn't mention it on the show, but her husband also left her in the midst of her cancer journey. In her blog, she writes powerfully and poetically about these struggles, describing her hours spent curled up on the bathroom floor and the raw, painful conversations with God that have ultimately strengthened her faith. Her positive outlook has been hard-won, which makes it all the more relatable.
As she told the judges of America's Got Talent, "It's important that everyone knows that I'm so much more than the bad things that happen to me." She also said, "You can't wait until life isn't hard anymore before you decide to be happy"—a philosophy that actually means something coming from someone in the depths of heartbreak and hardship.
Nightbirde's performance of her original song, "It's OK," created one of the most moving moments in the history of a show known for moving moments. When you get notoriously hard-nosed Simon Cowell wiping the corners of his eyes, you know you've hit a universal emotional chord. And when he gives the Golden Buzzer, automatically moving a performer to the final round of competition, you know you've truly got talent.
Moreso than the thunderous applause or even the judges' glowing remarks, the weighty pause before the audience erupts in a standing ovation testifies to the power of her performance. Her clear voice, authentic presence, bright smile, and upbeat attitude all come together perfectly here:
Golden Buzzer: Nightbirde's Original Song Makes Simon Cowell Emotional - America's Got Talent 2021 www.youtube.com
The video has gone incredibly viral, and Nightbirde woke up today to her song hitting number one on iTunes.
"Living in a dreamland," she wrote on Instagram as she shared a screenshot of the iTunes song chart.
Nightbirde spoke to NBC4i News in her native state of Ohio to discuss the Golden Buzzer moment and her cancer experience. She said it was just over a year ago that she was given a prognosis of three to six months.
"I've been on a really hard journey," she said, "and a lot of that journey I've walked alone, or at least in secret. There's a lot of hard battles you fight within yourself to be positive and stay present in the world, even when it hurts really bad to do that."
When asked about the overwhelming response to her song. "It's really amazing to see the lessons that I've learned and the person that I've become...it's now able to be a gift to other people."
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