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In which John celebrates Esther Day 2020 by talking about old pictures, love, and Esther Earl. Support This Star Won't Go Out here:

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Good morning, Hank, it's Monday, August 3rd.  It's Esther Day and I love you.  

My friend Ransom recently sent me some pictures he took of me when we were in college together.  I've been feeling more aware of time lately, feeling more acutely that time is the longest distance between two places, as Tennessee Williams put it.  It was just over ten years ago that I got a text message from Esther Earl saying that she wanted the holiday Nerdfighteria was celebrating on her birthday, August 3rd, to be about love, specifically the kinds of non-romantic love that often don't get celebrated in our culture.  She wanted her birthday to be a day when we stop and say 'I love you' to friends and family members and the other people in our lives who we love but often that love goes unacknowledged.  

Esther died just a few weeks later at the age of 16.  She would be in her mid-20s now, and I think about Esther a lot and I miss her a lot.  

Esther's family started a charity in her memory called This Star Won't Go Out, which provides direct relief to families with sick kids and also gives grants to young creative people to help them bring lovely things into the world and through that charity and her family and her friends, I do still feel Esther's presence.  

Esther's friends from those days of Nerdfighteria have remained close.  They most recently gathered when one of them got married and seeing those decade plus friendships flourish is one of the great joys of being part of this little online community, but still, I wish Esther had been at Katie's wedding.  I wish she had been at last year's Vidcon, and she isn't, but the love that she shared with her family and friends still is here.  

So right, ten years ago today we celebrated the first Esther day.  Ten years before that, or thereabouts, this picture was taken.  We were on a trip to the Grand Canyon.  We were young and full of hope and strong opinions.  This me who was 20 could not know the joys or indeed the sorrows of current me, and I find it helpful to look at these pictures if only because they remind me that current me cannot see the bad times that are coming, but also cannot see the moments of light-soaked joy that are in my future.

To see old pictures is, for me anyway, to be reminded that now feels permanent but isn't and that mere despair never tells the whole story.  Back when those pictures were taken, Hank, I didn't know you well.  I mean, obviously, we grew up inside the same house, but I left for boarding school when you were 11 and I didn't do a good job of keeping close to you.  I felt like my job as a big brother was to protect and watch out for you and I often felt tremendous guilt because I wasn't good at those jobs, and as time went on, telling you I love you became harder and harder, partly because I hadn't said it in so long and partly because I felt like I wasn't a good brother.

Working together, not just on stuff the world sees as work, but also on like, our project with Partners in Health, has been a way back into deep connection but the work itself is also an expression of our shared love for each other and I really value that.  I love hanging out with you, I love our long, rambling phone conversations, I love being on stage with you because you are unpredictable and fearless and funny without ever being cruel and your love for me helps hold me together.

Ten years ago, our lives were so different and ten years before that, we were just kids.  Now more than ever, it feels impossible to accurately imagine the future or accurately remember the past.  Neither feels fixed or fixable, but Esther was right that the constant is love.  So much from 2010 feels dated now, but not Esther Day, so I hope you'll take a moment to tell friends and family that you love them and how grateful you are for their love.

Hank, I love you, and I will see you on Friday.