I am not here to tell you what you already know about Nora Ephron. I'm sure we all agree that she changed the canvas of movie making with her superlative ability to string together words that rolled off the actors' tongues and left us laughing until we cried or simply left us crying. She reinvented romance when she wrote "When Harry Met Sally" and taught us about the long lost art of wooing. Who can forget the timeless line that Harry told Sally and ultimately raised the bar for every man across American who endeavored to love a woman:
"I came here tonight because when you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible...."
I for one am still waiting for Harry to show up. We can all laugh and arguably agree that Sally feigning an orgasm in the middle of a restaurant will go down in history as one of the funniest movie moments of all time. Then to follow it up with Rob Reiner's mom proclaiming "I'll have what she's having..." Classic. Nobody said it better then Nora when it came to conversational, romantic, honest, funny lines.
Her wonderful books will sit on the shelves in my office eternally as I scour through them from time-to-time when I need a dose of reality or a good laugh. She wrote with such ease and comfort; it was obvious that her writing was indicative of her personality and the way she viewed life. She was a realist about love, divorce, family, marriage and getting older. I have a personal story to share about Nora:
I became passionate about finding a way to help others after my divorce. I'm not rich, so putting money towards a cause wasn't an option. Then I thought about writing. Writing? I have never been a writer and my education was in business so how was I going to do it? Instead of arguing with my internal naysayer, I decided to listen to my inner spirit and I began taking writing courses at Stanford, Harvard and any other online class I could find.
A couple of years later I was referred to an editor via my professor at Stanford and I started writing pieces for a subsidiary of AOL. Lo and behold, AOL then bought the Huffington Post, which happens to be founded by one of my other heroes -- Arianna Huffington. Through the Common Wealth club in San Francisco, I signed up to see two of my favorite women speak --Arianna Huffington and Nora Ephron all in one weekend. Late in November on a stormy Friday night, I jumped in my car to trek into the city to hear Arianna speak. I had been counting the days, hours and minutes for this fateful night. I had decided I would march up to her after her speech and tell her I was a fan and I am now a writer for AOL. I was sure we would be instant friends, maybe even grab a coffee after the event together. I drove in the torrential down pour for over three hours and arrived at the Common Wealth Club late, but I didn't care -- I was going to meet Arianna! Running from the parking structure through the rain, I ran up the escalator in anticipation of a packed house. As I got to the top I noticed the room was unusually dark. I began to bang on the glass doors, desperate for someone to let me in because Arianna and I were going to have coffee. A young woman appeared on the other side of the glass door and looked at me quizzically. With a big smile on my face, I proclaimed. "I'm here to see Arianna Huffington speak." "Oh" she said, "I'm sorry she was here last night..." My smile instantly turned into nervous laughter, then bewilderment and back to gut-wrenching laughter. Like I was going to have coffee with Arianna Huffington. I am a firm believer that everything happens for a reason and so I accepted my disappointment-filled Friday night, holding my dignity high and knowing that something better would come of this.
On Sunday morning, I drove another three hours to Menlo Park to meet a girlfriend and attend a book signing by Nora Ephron. We sat in the second row, front and center, and I watched as Nora walked onto the stage with her signature black turtleneck and black leather pants. She captured everyone's attention with her sleek look and her one-liners filled with wit and profound intellect. I brought my copy of her latest book," I Remember Nothing," and stood in a long line to meet this icon -- the woman I had admired for years. As I approached the table where she was sitting, I saw her quickly sign each book presented to her and I began to panic about what I would say. I held in my hand a newly printed business card with my fancy title on it Agi Smith - Writer. In one small step I was standing before Nora Ephron and I blurted out like a schoolgirl, "I am your biggest fan!" She looked at me coyly and began to sign my book then looked up at me again. She scanned me head to toe and said, "Are you divorced?" Without missing a beat, I chuckled and said, "Of course I am, who isn't?" She smiled and said, "I want you to contact Sara Wilson our editor at Huffington Post Divorce and write for us."
"Write for us... write for us... did Nora Ephron just tell me she wanted me to write???"
My knees were shaking with excitement and then she said the words that forever changed the direction of my life: "Tell her Nora Ephron sent you."
I nearly passed out at the thought that I would get to send an email saying "Nora Ephron referred me... ". In her cursive writing, she wrote down Sara's email address and handed it to me. That afternoon, I wrote Sara an email and I have been blogging for the Huffington Post since. In one instant, Nora Ephron saw something inside me and altered the direction of my life forever. Because of her, I now have a national advice column, "Dear Agi", and I have had the opportunity to help others heal from divorce, broken relationships and the hardship that life can bring. She helped me achieve a goal I had set years before: to help others through my writing. To this day, that sticky note sits on my desk with its edges curled and tattered from being shuffled around. Every time I sit down at my desk, I see this sticky note and I am reminded how Nora Ephron changed my life, and hopefully through me, the lives of others.
I have never been able to get myself to throw the sticky note away and now I know exactly what I will do with it. I will frame it and place on my wall to remind me of the incredible woman who touched my life and the lives of so many. I am profoundly sad and yet so immensely grateful to this brilliant woman, prolific writer and a powerful force who believed in helping women rise to their higher ground. She was and still is my hero, my silent mentor and a constant role model. I still haven't met my other hero, Arianna Huffington, but I know that one day I will and when I do I will share my story of Nora and I. Who knows, maybe we will have that cup of coffee after all...