I'm taking the news of Nora Ephron's passing unusually hard.
I say this as a young woman who never knew Ephron personally and as a person who doesn't ever get emotional at the passing of celebrities.
Nora Ephron was never really a celebrity to me so much as she was a dream weaver.
She wrote what I believe to be the Holy Trinity of late 20th-century romantic comedies: When Harry Met Sally, Sleepless in Seattle and You've Got Mail.
I grew up watching these films in my suburban living room. They fed my youthful appetites for romance and humor, and they spurred me to believe that one day my life could have a happy ending and that I could move away and become a writer in New York.
Most of all, these films shaped my dreams of love.
In Nora Ephron's universe, marriage was never a goal. If marriage happens, it's cause for celebration, but it's never the one thing that women need to finally be considered a "success".
Sex was never used to bring a career woman down. There's no battle between the sexes where the rugged man needs to show the uptight lady who's boss.
Romance was not a way for a woman to transform herself from something schlubby into something valuable. There's no vampire husband who will steal you away from your perfectly normal life and then transform you into something alien and (finally) beautiful with his fanged kiss.
Her heroines were never marked for their looks and her heroes were never marked for their wealth. True, Kathleen Kelly is described as "beautiful (but a pill)" and Joe Fox ("F-O-X") is of Fox Books, but they don't fall for each other because of that. They fall in love over bouquets of freshly-sharpened pencils and butterflies in the subway.
In Nora Ephron's films, love is just the best kind of friendship. It's about recognizing the value of another person's thoughts, ideas, jokes and dreams and having them recognize yours in turn.
True love is two people who appreciate one another.
I can't think of another writer who describes it as such, and who writes about it with such wit, warmth and hope. She was always idealistic, but never completely unrealistic, which made the dreams she spun in her films all the more wonderful, because you believed that they could come true.
I'm so, so, so very sad that we've lost such a powerful and brilliant woman, but so, so, so very thankful that she gave me and so many other young men and women so many dreams.
She gave us dreams that can come true.