“The Erica Effect”

Erica Chase-Salerno was a rush of fresh air, specifically the ionized oxygen created by a waterfall, those charged particles that scientists have found mysteriously alleviate depression. With her gentle-scamp ways and her ecstatic heart, Erica pulled you in at first meeting, grabbed your hand and flew. 

I wasn’t alone in noticing the “Erica Effect,” which drew not only individuals, but whole communities, to love her: She was written up in Psychology Today. Erica is “one of these rare, special individuals who gives to others in a way that is beyond what she could possibly receive in return,” wrote psychologist Dr. Glenn Geher back in 2015. 

Like a speedy electron, Erica touched the lives of all she knew — and even those she just met. “When I have a smooth customer service transaction, I never take it for granted and ask to speak to the supervisor to report it,” she once explained. 

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Erica looked at the world with fresh eyes. Inclusivity was important to her, and her heart opened to many causes including the rights of the disabled, LGBTQ, people of color, veterans and our local churches. But most of all, she was a champion for the small. “Every time I meet a kid, I think ‘help me learn, help me see, help me grow,’” she said.

Six years ago, I asked Erica to write Kids’ Almanac because I wanted the world to wake up to the way she saw it. Later, she wrote Erica’s Cancer Journey because she couldn’t close her eyes to a world that people were afraid to see.

“I’ll play more… this final piece is important to me,” she said during the last weekend of her life, as she resorted to flashcards to remember the difference between a “b” and a “d” and she began to lose her charge. “I need to get that oxygen going. I’m seeing a cascade of loss and change. I’m fading, but I appreciate how you hear me,” she said, leading me to yet another insight into her short life of sparks.

Erica loved to write, but she lived to be heard.

There are 5 comments

  1. Frances Marion Platt

    A lovely remembrance, Jul! Erica was an extraordinary person who sprinkled her magic over so many lives. I am grateful for these years of being able to share her insights and enthusiasms on the printed page.

  2. Tammy K. Firmbach

    I came late to the blog. However, Erica drew me in with her honesty and words that never sugar coated her illness and disease. I was invested immediately. I never met Erica, but I mourn her death as if she was my best friend. I hope I can be as brave as she is if this becomes my life. I am not scared because of her courage. Thank you Erica for making death not so much as an end but as a new beginning. <3

  3. Erin Quinn

    Beautifully stated Jules. She most certainly encapsulates the waterfall effect. And like water, she will continue to move through obstacles to and continue to flow through all of those she loves.

  4. Patty Curry

    Thank you Julie. You so perfectly described our sparky Erica and her immediate affect upon first sight. It was indeed an infectious awe at first sight that and deepened with every gratuitous encounter. She was seen. And heard. And loved. Godspeed Dear Celestial Erica. ❤️

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