Saturday, June 14, 2014

On Premieres and Promises

Earlier this month I went to my first movie premiere (in New York City!) to see The Fault in Our Stars, the film based on that book author John Green dedicated to my daughter, Esther. But you knew that. Beforehand, I wondered, would some of our story –our love- be on the movie screen for all to see? There’s a bigger story here because that day was also the celebration of our 30th wedding anniversary! On June 2, 1984 Lori and I said “Yes!” for better or worse and there’s surely been a bit of worse (mostly self inflicted) and a lot of better (also mostly self inflicted).

I married a fascinating woman with amazing integrity, an engaging personality and we both had 20-something bodies, believe it or not! I loved that woman then and I love the one I share my life with now. The gift I was given has only grown richer and I am grateful. But you know that, too. Here’s the thing. The poets urge us to remember that love is not love without an object and can find itself only in its giving. Love cannot be hoarded. I signed up then for this lifetime of loving but I’ve since learned that there’s an agony to intimacy, a terror in this twosome. You can’t get close without hurting each other. Pain should be written up in the vows: “You’ll feel betrayed; you will be betrayed. You will feel devastated and you will be devastated...” Yeah. Every successfully married couple speaks of this mutual dying.

When we first read TFiOS, Lori said it was like the “love story Esther never got to have.” That took my breath away!  And recently our beautiful and gospeled Evangeline (her name means “one who brings the good news”) wrote that John’s story seemed a kind of sequel to Esther’s interrupted life. As I sat in the theatre at the premiere, I was worried that I would see Esther again and I was sure it would be impossible for me to know her as resurrected only to once again lose her with the lifting of the lights. A second death is a forever death. But there, in that packed movie house with my beloved wife and daughters by my side, my heart said okay and so it was that, yes, I saw her there. Many, many moments and places were familiar to me, and to us.
As I watched Gus work his magic, I remembered Wayne-the-young-man and recalled how hard I had to work to win the affection of Lori-the-teenager. And then, one day as I stood in our college parking lot and stared at her, it happened. Uncomfortable with my staring she said, “What? What are you looking at?” (Forget John Green the teen whisperer -he’s a Human Whisperer! All love is unique; all young love is alike.) I then asked her to “turn around, turn around slowly” which she did, thankfully -though reluctantly! “Why? What are you doing?” she said as she turned slowly and perfectly, smiling at me, playing along. “Why?” I said, “Because you’re beautiful.” I really said that! I was already in love and, in that moment she said yes to my love and willingly offered her own. (The wedding was just the telling-everybody-else-part of our love story.)

I think TFiOS has resonated with so many not because of engagement with existential questions about life and death but because it focuses on questions about life and love. Someone once said that we miss our dead because we loved their bodies and that’s why it hurts so much to lose them. It’s an unnatural ripping of the flesh. I used to think it maudlin to read of an earlier time when lockets of hair were kept and worn as mementos, specifically because of the physicality. The dead brought close through morbidity seemed a bit ridiculous to me, even absurd. I wish I had a bag full of Esther’s hair now.

We lose the body of the other in death, or divorce, and a myriad other lesser losing’s and we eventually lose our own bodies and ourselves as well. (Those who’ve given birth must understand this at a level I will never comprehend.) Personality can be kept, captured seemingly forever in amazing digital images and one’s beloved embeds even deeper in the neural pathways of the brain, but nothing is more enduring (spiritus-infinite?) than loving another with an open heart, and choosing to receive in kind. I think that’s the message of Fault and, for me, it's worth a second 30 year, I Promise. So “catch my hand..." But coupled or not, romantic and otherwise, all our loving will include a measure of “weeping in the night” as the Hebrew Scripture says, and along with the tears a promise of temporary orphaning for, “Joy cometh in the morning.”

“Our love was made for movie screens”? No. Something bigger. But, then you already knew that.
"Newly Engaged!" Idyllwild, CA Summer 1983.


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  2. hi my name is julia I am 14 years old and live in Brazil I just have little time to read the book of Esther and it is simply incredible her story but she wanted to be known only to read his story already'm thankful because I'm fan jhon and it was thanks to him that I read the book because it is the fault of the stars is dedicated to her and if I had one wish it would have known esther is simply incredible very very very incredible it inspired me her book makes us laugh, cry but he brings something that I never knew I had in me want to be like esther was and am very grateful to have known her story A BIG KISS ONE OF THE BIGGEST FANS OF ESTHER
    and if the translation is bad is the fault of google kkkkkkkk

  3. Good afternoon Wayne,
    Well, my name is Bruna and I live in Brazil too, when I read the book of John Green "Blame it on the stars" and saw that it was based on the story of a young man with cancer, I was fascinated and wanted to know the true story. And so I saw the book "The star that will never fade" in the bookstore and did my best to buy and know the story of Esther (I'm reading it at the moment)! It is so amazing that I cried, laughed, got angry by Esther died so young, wanted to have known her, to have been part of her friends, but did not, too bad: (
    Anyway wanted to tell you that I love your daughter very much despite not having met her, she was and always will be a great person who inspired many young people.
    I'm waiting for an answer, I'll be very happy!
    If error is the fault of google translator haha

  4. Hi!!!!!!:)
    My name is Hannah I'm 11 years old and I live in America (Virginia)
    And I wanted to say I started reading TSWGO a pretty long while ago, because I was having a heart surgery soon and I was scared, and there was something that caught my eye..,

    Esther 8:3 "if I have found favor with you, O king, and if it pleases your majesty- grant me my life- this is my petition."

    Yes!!! This was in TSWGO book! And I said that paragraph over and over and over, because the heart surgeon, could mess up! And I could have died! But last week today, I almost didn't wake up. But I kept faith, and here I am!

    Esther is a beautiful girl. I'm not gonna say was, because she really hasn't died, her legend lives! (Technically speaking, she lives) and Esther is more than a member of Catitude, Or part of the NERDFIGHTERS!!!!! (I am one! :)) or part of the cancer victims: she is ur daughter. And she is a sister. And she is loved.

    I saw Esther's grave last night (it was on a video) and I lost it. I began. Crying so friggin hard, because it is so beautiful, like Esther, and simle, like Esther. She did a good job u know ;)

    My goal in life is to NOT be part of millions.
    For instance:
    I'm going to be an orange in a bundle of green apples.
    Okay that was good ^.^ hehehe

    I really hope I stand out to you.

  5. Hannah,

    This is really beautiful and it made me laugh and smile! You are such a brave young lady and seem very wise. Esther loved that Bible verse and it, too brought her much comfort. You definitely stand out, kind of like an orange in a bundle of green apples! :)


    Esther's dad

  6. Wayne (I was going to be respectful and call you mister and all but google*),
    My heartfelt message all about how Esther's story and words changed my life was stupidly deleted by my goolge account*. So I will, in anger with google and all the work it has now destroyed, only say this: Esther's inability to continue writing today has inspired me to write always. I will take advantage of the privilege that is my life and write about it and others with no inhibitions because it is not fair that she only got so many words and I, already at 17 have gotten more. Because her words were beautiful and honest and we need more writers like her. Because I am now responsible to keep her star shining and so I shall in my writing. Esther's book touched me like I am sure she touched her friends' and family's life and I will not let this go inadverted.
    I hope that you and your family can continue to make Esther's star shine on families who need it and may God bless you all every single day for the work that you do.

  7. Hi Wayne, my name is Laura and I am a fan of Esther.
    I was reading "this star won't go out" and this makes me thinking about the life..
    Esther had so many problems and she was always happy and so strong, she is a true star and you and your family deserve the best, for caring about her, and giving her so many reasons to smile! I'm sure she had the best parents!
    I know is impossible, but if you read this someday, send me an e-mail, I will be very grateful (my e-mail is
    Thank you so much, I learned so many precious thing about life with that book!

    Always a fan
    obs: I am fan of all the family