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


The Earls took Esther to the hospital because she was struggling to catch her breath, and they learned that her body was overloaded with fluid, in part, because she had a compromised kidney. But Wayne Earl didn't believe it was the end. Not yet, anyway.

He turned to Esther as she lay in the hospital bed and asked if she wanted him to send her love to her followers on the family's blog about her health as he had done many times before. She shook her head and said no.

A scene from Harry Potter popped into his head, and he thought about how Harry didn't stop to say goodbye as he walked into the Forbidden Forest to defeat Voldemorte, thinking he would die in the act. He had to face death on his own.

"That's what Esther was doing," her father said. "I remember sitting down, and I was full of tears."

The next day, people who knew Esther or had found her online mourned, and Green posted another video called "Rest in Awesome, Esther."

In the video, Green held up a lime-green rubber bracelet that Esther's friends wore during her Make-A-Wish that says, "This Star Won't Go Out," which refers to the meaning of Esther's name: "star." He also told them that if they wanted to help, they could donate to the fund set up to pay for Esther's care.

Five people commented on the video this week alone, more than two years after it was created.

"Esther, my friend, Godspeed," Green told the camera before signing off.

'The Fault in Our Stars'

Three months after Esther died, Green threw out the book he was working on about a kid on a deserted Island and decided it was time to write a book about illness, a topic he had experimented with following his five months as a student chaplain at a children's hospital. Although he already had 70,000 words of a children's hospital book written, he started over. He called it "The Fault in Our Stars."

"It did not occur to me until very shortly before her death that the story I had been writing could be made better by the knowing of Esther and the anger at her illness," Green said.

His main character became Hazel Grace Lancaster (Grace is also Esther's middle name), who had terminal thyroid cancer and an oxygen tank named Phillip. Hazel isn't meant to "be" Esther, Green said, but he couldn't have written the first sentence without knowing her.

He said she taught him two things: that teenagers can be empathetic in ways he never knew, and that sick people aren't "fundamentally other."

"Even amid very serious illness – far sicker than Hazel – Esther was extremely funny," Green said.

He dedicated the book to her, and it became a bestseller before he even finished it.

This Star Won't Go Out

With a boost from Green's video, money started pouring into the Earls' fund for Esther's treatment. It was even more than they needed, so Esther's mom, Lori, started a charity called This Star Won't Go Out.

In its first two years, the nonprofit raised almost $90,000, which went toward 48 families, all of whom had a child with a life-threatening illness, Lori Earl said. They're on track to break $100,000 by the end of the year.

"High school and college kids write us all the time to say, 'Our club at school is going to do a fundraiser," Lori Earl said, adding that they often shave their heads, do battles of the bands and make their own videos.

She said she uses speaking engagements to talk about the organization and "the impact of one life and how one person can make a difference even if that one person is sick."

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