This Star Won't Go Out: The Life and Words of Esther Grace Earl by Esther Earl with Lori and Wayne Earl
Esther (Persian for "star") Earl was a bright and talented, but very normal teenage girl who was diagnosed with thyroid cancer at the age of 12. Despite her declining health, she lived a hope-filled and generous life focused on loving and caring for others. She was a cheerful, positive and encouraging daughter, sister and friend. She passed away in 2010 at the age of 16, but she left her mark on this world despite leaving it much too soon.
This unique memoir is a collection of her journals, stories, letters, and sketches, with photographs, and essays written by her family and friends to help tell her story.
Even though this book is aimed at young adult readers, I am 51 years old, and I loved it! I am living with terminal cancer myself, and I wish I could do it with even half of the grace that Esther possessed. Even with our age differences, I could relate to so much of Esther's thoughts and feelings about living with terminal illness, and the roller coaster of emotions that it puts you through.
There are very sad moments in this book, of course, but overall, it's a very joyous book at the same time, a celebration of her life, a life well lived in such a short time; not for her accomplishments, but for how she cared for and loved others. Esther readily admits her flaws also, which makes you love her even more, because she was human.
I love this quote from the introduction to her story by author John Green (The Fault in Our Stars): "And most of all, she was a person, complete and complex. We have a habit of imagining the dying as fundamentally other from well. We hold them up as heroes and imagine they have reserves of strength forbidden to the rest of us. We tell ourselves that we will be inspired through the stories of their suffering- we will learn to be grateful for every day, or learn to be more empathetic, or whatever. These responses, while certainly well-intentioned, ultimately dehumanize the dying: Esther was uncommon not because she was sick, but because she was Esther, and she did not exist so that the rest of us could learn Important Lessons about Life."
I totally feel the same way, but I never knew how to put it into words, and I thank John Green for doing so. I also thank her friends and family for sharing their
"Star" with the rest of us.
(I'm sorry if this review is a long one, but this book just resonates with me so much!). I also loved reading about Esther's online community of friends, and how they were all there for her. I am very lucky also to have many wonderful online friends, and they are just as "real" as IRL (in real life) friends, even though a former friend of mine once told me they were not. And on that note, I have to quote John Green just one more time:
“I dislike the phrase 'Internet friends,' because it implies that people you know online aren't really your friends, that somehow the friendship is less real or meaningful to you because it happens through Skype or text messages. The measure of a friendship is not its physicality but its significance. Good friendships, online or off, urge us toward empathy; they give us comfort and also pull us out the prisons of our selves."