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Jane Marczewski and I became friends in early 2021, but I wish we had never met. I am heartbroken, because it’s dawned on me that had Jane never gotten sick, our paths would most likely never have crossed. We would be strangers, but she would be alive, and I would gladly give up ever knowing her for that to be true. But the story goes that while she was fighting that damned disease, I happened to be writing audacious little Instagram posts about life, death, God, and faith, which she happened to stumble upon. And so our conversation began. Is it strange or is it beautiful that the internet is why we became confidants? Who knows, but apparently the bizarre highway of high speed disconnectedness doesn’t always work against us. Occasionally, it lets us find a true friend.
Most of us knew Jane as the singer-songwriter Nightbirde, and even from a distance it was easy to see that she was a woman with plans. She was dreaming and planning to live for a hundred years, dreaming and planning to fill her days with songwriting and singing and performing. (Oh! What is this world supposed to do without her in it?) Whether you knew Jane personally or you felt her radiance from afar, it was easy to see that the world was not worthy of her. She was a person of intense hopefulness and determination. And even while she was busy working on her dreams and relentlessly fighting to stay alive, she never lost her ability to fan the flame of someone else’s dream. I am shy to tell you the story of her generosity towards me, but I'm afraid that if I don’t, I will regret not sharing how Jane Marczewski forever changed my life.
For a season Jane and I had been communicating only by DM’s, until one afternoon she called me. She sounded weak. She was sporadically coughing. But there was a fire in her voice that demanded my attention. “Andy!” she said, “You MUST write a book! You have to do it! The world needs your words.” I was caught off guard, but I recovered quickly. Jane’s insistence that I take a risk and put pen to paper became the courage I needed to write and release a book called Poet Priest Volume 1. I did not have what it took to get myself over the finish line, so she boldly made my dream her dream, and she put me on her back and carried me across. When I asked her to write the foreword, she agreed. Today, I cried again while reading what she wrote. Clearly, she was a better writer than me.
Nightbirde and I were kindreds because we each had a complicated relationship with God. We both wrestled with a God who filled us with dreams but who also placed us in a world where we might not have a chance to make those dreams come true. This wrestling came to define both Jane's and my life; we both have held in our grip things we can't reconcile, and we both have thrown ourselves on the goodness and love of a God we don't understand. I have no energy to apologize on behalf of God for letting us live in a world where bad things happen. People die before they should. Jane shouldn't be dead, and I have no reasons to give for why she is. But Jane believed that God was worth believing in. She believed that God in Christ reconciled the world to himself. What does this mean? It means that even though the absurdity of death remains, it is not the final reality. There is a resurrection of the dead, there is a hope beyond the grave, and there is a love so relentless that nothing, not even death, can stand in its way.
Right now I am in shock, I’m not at peace, and I am lost. I am lost, but I am not afraid. I’m not afraid, because I hear Jane singing “it’s ok.” Maybe there is a reasonable case to be made for becoming hopeless, but if Jane taught us anything she taught us that when hopelessness rears its ugly head, we defy it. Jane lived her life in defiance of it. She was filled with a rebellious hope. She was God’s downstairs neighbor. She was a fool in love. Even when she was under the debris, even when she was on the bathroom floor, she counted God as her friend. She once wrote “Call me the one who God whispers his secrets to” and that is what I will always call her. Right now, as always, God is telling Jane things, and while she is listening to him, she is singing over us like a bird in the night that “it’s alright”, and we believe her.
-Andy Squyres
February 2022

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