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Dream Life in Paris

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It’s OK, Nightbirde

What do you do? When you’ve been dealt so many blows, when your whole life is immersed in endless pain, when you try to peep into the future, and all you see is a thick mist of darkness? What do you do? When your whole body reverberates with pain from every nerve, tissue, and tendon. What do you do when the love of your life walks on you, adding another raw stab in your heart, the rejection compounding an already unbearable misery? 

Do you curl into a ball like a cocktail shrimp and swim in this ocean of pity partying? Drink this cup of misery and revel in the beauty of wallowing. Or do you search deep into the cores of your numbed, shattered soul and cling to the last embers of hope you can dig up?

Perhaps not, but if you’re Jane Marczweski, you would. You’d see it as an opportunity to choose what you want to become. When you go through something so devastating that it makes no sense, where you ask questions that have no answers, you can make a choice: the choice to be bitter, close your eyes, and sign off. Or the choice to keep your eyes open in a stubborn defiance against your mortality. A rebellious hope. 

You’re Jane Marczweski. You were born at the onset of the last decade of the 20th century. Your birthday is December 29, 1990. You have dark hazel eyes, and even without your natural wild black hair, you’re still pretty. It’s a beauty you borrowed from Mitchell and Sharon Marczewski, the two Zanesville, Ohio, natives who had the privilege of siring and giving you a proper Christian upbringing.

Licking County Christian Academy

You attend Licking County Christian Academy, where you cultivate your love for music, writing, and poetry. But you’re also into business and marketing, so you enroll at Liberty University in Lynchburg, VA, and by age 23, you have your marketing degree. All this while you’ve remained true to your first love, and you go ahead and release two EPs called Lines, Ocean & Sky. 

Because you’re a proper Christian young woman with a good upbringing, you let your light shine. You dedicate your high school years to serving God and humanity. You volunteer for the youth ministry, doing Bible study, organizing, and leading worship events in your native Ohio state. You minister to underprivileged children in the neighborhood, buying them snacks and talking to them about Jesus. You visit women in Davidson County Jail, where you read the bible and tell them how they can be free in Messiah.

You’re in the prime of your youth; you’re living your passion, writing songs, and holding live music performances. You’re dating the love of your life, the man you’d eventually marry, brought together by your passion for music. You’re also serving your God and your community, dedicated to worship, ministry, and evangelism. Life is beautiful. 

Until it isn’t. 

Jane Marczweski and Jeremy Claudio tied the knot in a vintage-themed wedding at Sparta Restaurant & Coffee Shop in downtown Newark, Ohio, two years before she was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer. They divorced a year before her death.

It’s been three years since you left college. You’re 26, happily married to the man of your dreams. You have your whole life ahead of you, and you’re looking forward to years of making beautiful babies and music and impacting the world in ways only you can.

The fairytale love that could not stand in the face of adversity.

Then you fall sick. It starts like a mild fever accompanied by a sharp pain that tears through your body, and it gets worse and worse until you end up in the doctor’s office. They do tests and scans and more tests and scans until the doctor, long accustomed to such routines, tells you blatantly that you have cancer. Stage 2b, and it’s eating at your breasts. Fast. 

You refuse to believe it; you’re only 26. For goodness sake, how can you have cancer? But then you grow sicker and sicker, and you realize you can’t run away from your mortality; you can only face it. And face it, you did, with the courage and stoicism that only you can muster. 

You go through chemo and radiation and every other form of therapy ever invented against cancer. After ten months of battling the monster, you’re told it’s gone. You go on remission, plunging whatever energy you have into music and ministry because that really has always been what you do best. It’s always been your first love.

Before stardom. Jane will be remembered for her resilience and strong message of hope amidst pain and suffering.

You release a few singles, including New Year’s Eve, Brave, and Girl in a Bubble, an acknowledgment of the alien experience of illness. Only for the monster to return a year later. This time, you’re handed a death sentence, and your chances of survival are 3-6 months. You’re told to see a death counselor because, who knows, they may have a magic way of making the idea of death seem less horrifying. You laugh at the sheer irony of it all.

Jane Marczweski was a three-time breast cancer survivor before it metastasized to stage 4, eventually taking her life

During those bleak months, as you lie awake, grounded in your bed, you could only watch the monster take away your hair, your breasts, your femininity, your energy, and the vitality of youth. You put up a fight, naturally, leaving your native Ohio for a miracle in California. Somehow, you find it because you’re declared cancer-free sometime later. You decide this time, you’ll dedicate your life to doing what you were born to do. 

And just when you’re thinking of celebrating this new ray of hope, you realize the “chemo brain” has made you a slower thinker; it has interfered with your sense of memory and stolen whatever you were given to attract friendship, affirmation, and love. You believe it’s over because what more do you have to lose? 

But it’s just beginning. The man who swore to love you in sickness and health couldn’t wait for death to do your part. He takes the cowardly way out, subjecting you to divorce amid a heavy storm because he just can’t see how he could love you anymore. Not without your hair, your breasts, your extra 25 pounds.

The Claudios. It was too good to last.

The day the papers are signed, you run home into the loving arms of your dad because that’s what fathers are there for: to shield their little girls from the cruel blows of life. But life was not done beating and bruising you, even from the warm embrace of your father. The monster comes back in full force this time, determined to claim not just a piece of you but the whole of you. To wipe away your wonderful voice, your powerful lungs, your beautiful soul, and your abundant self. 

It metastasizes, spreading to your lungs and spine and taking over all of your liver. Once again, the doctors hand you another death sentence because you’ve been slippery, dodging the first and second as if they were not scary enough. They tell you this time, you have a 2% chance of survival, an opportunity to choose what you want to become. They ask you to get serious about seeing that death counselor once and for all.

On the nights you cannot sleep, you listen to birds singing in your bedroom in the dead of night, and you think, how wonderful to know that beauty can exist even in darkness? It’s like a reflection of your true self, that of courage and resilience in the face of adversity. So, you assume this new identity that embodies courage, positivity, and defiance. You adopt an attitude of rebellious hope. You become Nightbirde. 

Other times when you don’t know how to cope with the excruciating pain, you opt to lie in your tub like an insect, staring at your reflection in the shower knob. You vomit until you’re hollow. You roll up under the robe on the tile.

The bathroom floor becomes your hiding fortress, a place where you could scream and be ugly, sob and spit, and eventually doze off, happy to be asleep, even with your head on the toilet. There, you hold long conversations with God. You cry, you pray, you scream, you curse, you plead. You wrestle with God so much until He finally relents, and you hear that still, small voice:

“My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.”

You let His words wash over you, calm the fire and the sharp pain that tears at every core of your being. You feel the words instill in you a new sense of acceptance and peace that you didn’t know existed. It is in this moment of reckoning that you resolve to turn ashes into beauty.

When she stepped on stage at the 16th season of America's Got Talent in June 2021 as Nightbirde and auditioned with her hit song "It's OK."

You go staggering back to your first love, racing against time, determined to use your 2% chance of survival to leave a legacy. With just a few months to go, you put aside every weight and the sin that easily entangles you and get ready for the flight. You compose a song of acceptance and boldly audition for it on a global stage. It’s OK.  

“Therefore, most gladly, I’d rather boast in my infirmities that the power of Messiah may rest upon me.


In June 2021, while living the last year of her life, Jane Marczweski stepped on the stage of America’s Got Talent as Nightbirde. There, she performed her widely acclaimed title: “It’s OK,” and won the coveted Golden Buzzer from the ever-serious Simon Cowell, who teared up before coming to the stage and giving her a big hug. It was an emotional moment when the judges and later the audience gave Nightbirde a standing ovation. 

“For when I’m weak, then I’m strong.”

Receiving the coveted Golden Buzzer from Simon Cowell.

Asked about the song, Nightbirde said it’s her last year to live, and the 2% chance she was given was better than 0%, and she wanted people to know she’s so much more than the bad things that happen to her. The Golden Buzzer could have propelled her to the quarterfinals had she not dropped out of the competition two months later to focus on her health. While explaining the turn of events, Nightbirde posted: 

Since my audition, my health has taken a turn for the worse, and the fight with cancer is demanding all of my energy and attention. I am so sad to announce that I won’t be able to continue forward on this season of AGT. Life doesn’t always give breaks to those that deserve it—but we knew that already.”

She found a friend in Simon Cowell.

This broke the hearts of AGT judges and millions of fans worldwide who had been inspired by her story and resilience amidst such adversity. She spent the last months of her life in her San Clemente home in California. Her brother Andrew resigned from his job to take care of her. After a six-year battle with cancer, Jane Marczweski died peacefully on 19th February 2022 in San Clemente, California, surrounded by family and friends. 

A memorial was later held at the Cornerstone Church of Licking County, Ohio, on Friday, March 4, 2022. Family, friends, and fans from across the country celebrated and paid tribute to the young woman who inspired everyone “not to wait until life isn’t hard anymore before you decide to be happy.” Her hit song, It’s OK, was charted No. 1 on iTunes and No. 3 on Billboard, and it recorded 300 million views on YouTube.

Her memorial service at the Cornerstone Church of Licking County, Ohio, on Friday, March 4, 2022

Jane Marczweski will be remembered for her larger-than-life personality, her sense of humor, her faith, and her gift of hope. She is survived by her parents, Mitchell and Sharon Marczewski, of Zanesville; three siblings, Andrew, Kate, and Mitch; her grandparents, Richard and Elizabeth Rumora; a horde of uncles, aunts, nephews, and friends. She was 31. 

I was a stick of dynamite and it was just a matter of time, yeah /

All day, all night, now I can’t hide /

Said I knew myself but I guess I lied /

It’s okay, it’s okay, it’s okay, it’s okay /

If you’re lost, we’re all a little lost and it’s alright /

It’s okay, it’s okay, it’s okay, it’s okay /

If you’re lost, we’re all a little lost and it’s alright /

It’s alright, it’s alright, it’s alright, it’s alright.”

      ~ Nightbirde

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Teri O'halo McMahonn

Teri O'halo McMahonn

Writer & Blogger

I’m just like you. I’ve gone through pain in its various forms. I’ve lived with the pain of neglect and abandonment, watched my baby die in my arms, nursed multiple heartbreaks, and buried all my best friends. Like you, I became numb with every blow life dealt me. That was until I realized talking about these unpleasant life realities is a great coping mechanism. By confronting rather than suppressing my suffering, I was able to heal and find acceptance and closure. I’m not saying it was easy. My resilience and strength were severely tested. And yet, “Still I Rise.” That’s why I can easily relate to your current pain, no matter the tragedy. That’s why I’m here to help you cope with it by talking about it. It’d be an honor to have me tell the world your story.

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Teri O'halo McMahon

I help families bring out the beauty and character of their dear ones by writing obituaries, tributes, eulogies and mini biographies that define their legacy. Obituaries that go beyond the usual bland and dull announcements, capturing the essence of their true selves.

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I help families bring out the beauty and character of their dear ones by writing obituaries, tributes, eulogies and mini biographies that define their legacy. Obituaries that go beyond the usual bland and dull announcements that fail to capture the essence of who those people really were.

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