Esther Earl Died of Cancer Two Years Ago, but Continues to Inspire Friends and Strangers Everywhere


Through it all, she couldn't often go to school, but she loved to read. She soon found that she could be "normal" online through blogs and videos. An avid Harry Potter fan, Esther learned about Green's books and joined his online community called the Nerdfighters. She also connected with Andrew Slack, who founded the Harry Potter Alliance as a way to blend fandom with activism.

Eventually, Esther needed to wear little plastic nubbins over her nose that connected to an oxygen tank, which she named "Denmark" in her last video. "You guys have never met Denmark," she gushed after explaining that she's afraid of the stove because she's somewhat flammable with the oxygen. "He's my oxygen machine. I love him."

Meeting John Green

Esther and Green met in 2009 at LeakyCon, the Harry Potter conference, during the concert part of the event when everyone is supposed to dance. Green was feeling awkward and noticed Esther sitting at a table off to the side, so he went over to say hello.

"The birth of our friendship was that I don't like to dance, and Esther was too sick to dance," Green said. "I liked Esther a lot immediately. ... She was just a nice, normal person. Uncommonly mature. Uncommonly empathetic. She sensed my own anxiety in those situations."

He didn't even realize she was a key organizer in his Nerdfighter fan community but eventually they became friends despite the more than 15-year age difference. ("When she first told me about him, I was like, 'Wait a minute I don't want this to be creepy,'" Esther's father said, laughing. "He was just smitten by her personality.")

Most people didn't even know Esther was sick, and wondered how her hair could be so perfect in video-chats at 3 a.m., Wayne Earl said. They were wigs, of course, because of the chemo.

"For her, the Internet was a place where she could be well and normal and not have people look at her as having cancer," Green said.

The month before she died, Esther invited Green to her Make-A-Wish in Massachusetts. The Make-A-Wish Foundation grants terminally ill children wishes -- for example, to play football with the Eagles or meet Cookie Monster -- but Esther just wanted to meet her online friends in person.

After that, Green posted a video about Esther ("Or, as she's known on the Internet, CrazyCrayon!"), and people wanted to know more about her. He told his viewers to vote for the Harry Potter Alliance, which was competing for funds at the time, with Esther -- but not for Esther, "because if I say that to Esther she will throw up in the back of her mouth and hate me."

Although Green originally told the world about Esther by video-blogging about her and later dedicating his best-selling novel to her, Slack of the Harry Potter Alliance said he believes Esther gained a following because of her "quirky" and "absurd" sense of humor and her ability to listen to others.

"John Green loves Esther because Esther was lovable," Slack said in an email. "And that's why I love Esther."

Esther's 16th birthday became Esther Day, and Green told her it could be about whatever she wanted. She said it would be about family, and telling people you love that you love them -- kind of a reverse Valentine's Day. Three Esther Days later, the Nerdfighter community still celebrates it. It even had a celebration in Quincy, Mass., this year.

'Rest in Awesome'

Esther died in the early hours of Aug. 25, 2010, three weeks after her 16th birthday and two days after she decided to withdraw from high school to get her GED.

  • 1
  • |
  • 2
  • |
  • 3
  • |
  • 4
Join the Discussion
blog comments powered by Disqus
You Might Also Like...