Did you tell someone you love that you love them? I hope you did, even if you’ve never heard of Esther Earl. I hope you get that chance every day.
Esther was a teenage girl who attained some modest internet fame through the Nerdfighters community, a bunch of proud geeks led by John and Hank Green of the Vlogbrothers Youtube channel. Being a bit shy about internet forums, I’m not directly involved with Nerdfighteria myself. I know it through my friends Chelsea and Vanessa, who “introduced” me to Esther at the 5th anniversary party for the Harry Potter Alliance on October 10, 2010 – about two months after Esther’s death from cancer at the age of 16. And exactly one year after my mother’s death from a heart attack at the age of 51.
On a normal day, Esther’s story would have made me think, made me contemplate the meaning of life. It would have reminded me of Kevi, a boy I babysat for a few short days before his death at the age of 13. I would’ve been sad, on a normal day, for the loss of a bright and vibrant young girl.
But on that day, 10/10/10, I was affected on all those levels and more. I’m not a highly religious person, but I believe my mother sends messages to me when I am alert enough to notice them. Usually, she sends messages through music, because that’s the way she bonded with me when she was alive. That night, when Harry and the Potters sang “You Were the Best We Ever Had” and dedicated it to Esther, I knew my mother was there, too. I knew she wanted me to hear Esther’s story and the message within.
Esther’s message, as she told it to the Green brothers when they asked her what she would like her birthday to represent, was simple: Tell the people you love that you love them. Not the mushy, Valentine kind of love, she specified, but the simple friends-and-family love we so often forget to express to each other.
The name “Esther” means star, and her friends started a fund called “This Star Won’t Go Out” in her honor. TSWGO provides funding to families in Massachusetts dealing with childhood cancer. You can buy TSWGO bracelets to benefit the fund.
For me, “This Star Won’t Go Out” has become a personal mantra. I suffer from depression, a life-threatening chronic illness similar to cancer in that it drains its victims’ energy, throws life into chaos and takes all of one’s strength to fight. Sometimes that fight can be won. Sometimes it can’t. Esther reminds me to keep fighting. My middle name, Aster, which also means “star”, is inspired by Esther. She reminds me that life is too precious to give up on, and love is too important to take for granted. When I think about Esther, I think about how determined she was to enjoy her life and her friends in the face of terrible pain. And I remember not to let her star- or mine - go out.