Astute “American Idol” observers may have noticed an interesting story arc on Wednesday night’s two-hour audition episode. Though it was not commented on during the show, the tryouts in Milwaukee had a dramatic subplot that united an aspiring “Idol” and a former top finisher through their mutual grief over personal tragedies.
When bespectacled church crooner Danny Gokey sang his way into the top three on season eight of “Idol,” the heartbreaking story of his young wife’s death from a congenital heart disease just weeks before his audition for the show was a frequently discussed part of his “Idol” biography.
During Wednesday’s show, in which Gokey was seen giving his hometown aspirants some encouragement as they waited in line for their turns to sing, we also met another unassuming sweetheart of a guy struggling with a tragic backstory involving his beloved.
Chicagoan Chris Medina, 26, melted hearts in his show-ending audition with the story about his longtime love, Juliana Ramos, and the car accident that forever changed their lives. After eight years together, Medina proposed to his girlfriend two years ago and the couple planned to wed soon after. A short time later, though, she was in a car accident that left her with a traumatic brain injury and in a coma that doctors didn’t think she’d wake from.
She did, though, and Medina has stood by her side, helping to take care of her along with Ramos’ mother and wearing her engagement ring on a chain around his neck. He sang the Script’s “Breakeven,” an emotional song with lyrics about heartbreak, including the lines, “Well I’m still alive, but I’m barely breathing/ I pray to a God that I don’t believe in/ … When a heart breaks, no, it don’t break even/ … I’m fallin’ to pieces.” The performance was so moving that it garnered some props not only from the judges, but from Script guitarist Mark Sheehan, who tweeted his support for Medina after the show.
USA Today dug up a video that Ramos made on what would have been the couple’s wedding day, in which Chris can be heard playing “What Has Become of Me,” a song he wrote during Juliana’s long hospital stay. “Instead of saying my vows today I decided it would be nice to share this song with you guys,” he said in the video. “I bottomed out/ I’m holding on to anything/ A beating heart/ I’ve come to see it’s paramount/ I’m giving all I’ve got to give to set you free/ More than a vow, through thick and thin,” he sings in his keening falsetto over a gently picked acoustic guitar, promising to guide his love home even as he questions how the accident has thrown his life into turmoil.
And, like Gokey, Oak Forest, Illinois, barista Medina was an aspiring singer well before he took his story to “Idol.” While Danny mostly used his pipes to sing worship songs as part of the Faith Builders International Ministry in Beloit, Wisconsin, and Milwaukee, Medina rocked it out with his unsigned Fall Out Boy-esque indie band the Able Body.
Gokey’s wife had died by the time he was on “Idol,” so the foundation he set up in her honor helps other families in need. But because he’s still dealing with the costs of her treatment, Medina is raising money for the Juliana Recovery Fund through the Laurus Foundation.
He’s also getting major support and props from Juliana’s mother, who maintains a Facebook blog updating her daughter’s progress. “Can you believe it? There are just no words,” she wrote Thursday (January 27) after the previous night’s emotional scene. The day before, she blogged about how good things can happen when people get together and send their positive thoughts.
“I will keep this brief (for once) because you see I have a daughter healing from a brain injury who is a bit excited today and I want to share that excitement with her,” she wrote before the episode aired. “There is a man in our lives that has risen from a crisis to be a hero. You know that already because I have said it a hundred times in a hundred ways through this blog. Our very own Chris Medina has spent days and nights, losing blood, sweat and oh yes A LOT of tears to beg his fiancé back to health. And through it all he has become deeper, more centered, and an even more soulful individual. This has been witnessed by all of us from his mannerisms to his music. If you didn’t love him before, you do now. If you DID love him, you now adore him … I just want to say… Tonight’s gonna be a good, good night!”
What did you think of Medina’s emotional story? Share your thoughts in the comments.
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