Thursday, March 28, 2013

Her Life Was Her Book

It seems that Esther's Star shows no signs of dimming! Toward the end, as her health was declining, I promised her I would write her story. I realize now that I was trying to control the inevitable, trying to tame death and that writing would be a way of somehow keeping her here. I guess I sort of knew that, then, but I was reeling with grief. I still am. Everyone who knew Esther will never get over her awful, early departure. 

But her star will not go out! Love is like that: it cannot die. It may change, or flicker but it's finally indestructible. I really believe that. As I write these words, it is Good Friday, which, in the Christian calendar is the day when a good man died for what he believed was the will of God. And then, in the story, Easter followed which was God's way of saying there was no way that death was going to win, no chance the so-called domination systems of the day would ultimately triumph -gruesome, unjust death, or otherwise- over the good life of that man Jesus or of any life going forward in time for that matter! To paraphrase one contemporary writer, Easter is God's way of saying once and for all that Life Wins. Of course, I was not there on the first Easter but I have seen that kind of resurrection life up close. You see, I held Esther within seconds of her birth and I held her in death many minutes after she was gone and I loved her with all my heart in the in between times; she was a mighty force.

I am so grateful that Penguin has miraculously agreed to publish some of what I wrote alongside Esther's journals and other writings. (Yes, miracle. It's a reality because of Esther's amazing talent and my promise to write her story. But most importantly, it's now a thing because of the vision of John Green!) From the press release:

"The unique memoir will be published in close collaboration with Wayne and Lori Earl, Esther’s parents, who said, “Esther dreamed of being an author.  Her life was her book.  She didn't get to choose the ending, but the way she filled the pages made her story irresistible. Sharing our Star—our amazing burst of sunshine—is a way of spreading light. We hope others will be changed as we have been.”

Finally, as a family, we are extremely touched by the many Guestbook entries recorded on Esther's CaringBridge site. Esther loved reading them and I am sure that, if it's possible -though I imagine she is involved in more interesting things these days- she’s still blessed by your thoughts. And why not? If our love for her intensifies over time, then surely her passion for us cannot abate, right? Certainly, her Star continues to shine and that brightness inspires us, comforts us, and reminds us that we have much to live for. So be alive here, now, and make it your aim to care deeply for others. That's what she did. I see no way to improve upon that.

Esther Earl, Author.

Thursday, March 7, 2013


A couple weeks ago I was attempting to lead a spirituality discussion group in a residential substance abuse treatment program for males between the ages of 14-18, when, out of the blue, they asked the following question. (I must add that much of what helps them pass the time while locked up involves watching movies or playing games which feature some anti-hero exacting revenge on the obviously really bad guys, the true villains.) So, toward the end of an otherwise uneventful group session, here's what they wanted to know:

What would you do if a very evil person killed your family right before your eyes? You saw it, couldn't help them; you were unable to deliver them. Then it happened that this person was arrested, tried but ultimately declared not guilty!  And yet you know the truth. Now you watch helplessly as this person leaves the courtroom. Once again you feel powerless as this person passes you, staring at you, his sick grin taunting you, the same smirk he flaunted on the day he killed your hope. But you know he is guilty! Later, you find yourself in a position to take his life outright. He is now at your mercy and you could end his life in an instant. What would you do? Would you murder him? Take revenge for what he did, for what the system failed to get right?

I responded to their question by asking my own questions, which slowed things down but ultimately left them unsatisfied. One kid finally said, "You always answer our questions with, 'Well, that's the question, isn't it?!'" And he was right. So I paused and looked at each of these ten young men and then I answered them directly, to the point. "No. No, I wouldn't take his life because it's not worth it. His life is not worth the price of mine. The universe has its own timetable." 

For the very first time in almost four years, they didn't ask another question.

Don’t insist on getting even; that’s not for you to do. 
“I’ll do the judging,” says God. “I’ll take care of it.” ~Romans 12:19