Music was my first love. It is a sense of freedom and self-expression that nothing else compares to. For years I have played piano on and off, sang, and wrote lyrics. My name Shira actually means “song” in Hebrew, so I think it was a sort of destiny to fall for music. But, becoming sick ten years ago made these activities seem impossible. At the 2015 Global Genes Tribute to Champions of Hope where I was being honored as the Champion of Hope - Teen Advocate, my passion for music was reignited. When I went to the Global Genes Gala I had no idea that I would meet someone who could touch my life in such a profound way. Christina Grimmie, finalist from The Voice, was there as both an advocate and performer. We became fast friends as we bonded over quirkiness and hair dye. Over our friendship, Christina reminded me why I had fallen in love with music in the first place.
Being a patient with life threatening illnesses and growing up around friends passing away, I thought I was numb to the pain of death. But nothing could have prepared me for the night Christina was murdered. I remember getting the call from a mutual friend, Travis Flores, saying that she had been shot before it even broke to the press. I remember clinging to the phone, hoping it was an alternate reality, waiting to know if she would make it or not. I remember sobbing on the floor of a bathroom I had locked myself once I found out she hadn’t made it. Even now, one year later, the loss feels completely surreal.
I spoke to one of Christina’s childhood best friends, Lauren Longo, about this feeling and was inspired by her unshakeable faith in dealing with this tragedy. “I have extreme comfort in knowing that I will see her again one day in heaven. Our faith is something that bonded us while she was on earth, and I know it will bond us eternally.” This faith is a common thread amongst Christina’s friends and family and, I believe, it is a huge part of the reason they have been able to remain so strong. While all of Christina’s family members are working hard to guarantee everything Christina stood for lives on, one specific Grimmie family member, Christina’s father, Bud Grimmie, is an “unsung hero” who “works almost 24/7 on doing whatever he can for her legacy. They had an incredibly special relationship, grounded in respect, love, and a shared sense of humor. It is amazing seeing how far he will stretch himself to ensure that he does whatever he can for his precious daughter.”
Christina’s career was beginning to skyrocket, and while it would seem that her death would stop this, it has actually done the exact opposite. Through Republic Records, the Grimmie family released Side B Christina’s second EP and her album, All is Vanity, is set to release on June 2nd, national gun violence awareness day. The film that Christina starred in, The Matchbreaker, recently came to Netflix and trust me, it’s a must-watch.
The outpour of love and support from people, even strangers, who are helping to ensure Christina’s legacy lives on has been incredible, Lauren says, “Her legacy gives us a mission we all have to collectively complete. There are people that are not sleeping, because it is more important for them to finish a song, artwork, telling their friends about her, or binge watching her videos. There are people who work 40+ hours a week, but who will want to meet with the Grimmie family during their time off to use professional connections and experience to promote Christina’s legacy.”
Part of this legacy is the Christina Grimmie Foundation as announced on The Voice, which has continued to champion Christina’s legacy. While any fan of Christina’s could tell you she was passionate, Lauren wants people to know that this went beyond music. “‘Passionate’ becomes a cliche adjective, but Christina was honestly the definition of it. When she loved, she loved extremely deeply. This is why she was protective of people she loved and wanted to dedicate her time to causes she cared about.” The Foundation aims to continue these values by supporting causes close to Christina including breast cancer and gun violence. Right now the focus of the Foundation is on selecting other nonprofits to help fund that have similar missions. But Lauren talked about bigger plans for the future, “ One day, as we heal and build the foundation, we will hopefully have our own programs, instead of only sponsoring other, amazing non-profits. I think that the Grimmie’s have a very unique perspective to one day be able to meet face to face with some of these other families. Mark (Christina’s brother) has mentioned that this may be a dream for his future.“
Nothing will ever make this senseless and violent act okay. But coping has been easier knowing all of the amazing things coming in the future for Christina. As her newly released song “Invisible” states, she will not be dismissed or hidden, she will shine, and she sure as heck won’t be invisible.
Anyone who was lucky enough to have had Christina in their lives learned something from her. For me, Christina reminded me what a beautiful gift music is and that if you have it, you have an obligation to share it with the world. Life is too short not to sing loudly (even if you are off-key), march to the beat of your own drum, or rejoice in self-expression.