Skip to Content

Celebrating Amy Ettinger: A Tribute in Words

(JTA) – Amy Ettinger, a renowned author and instructor in creative writing, who documented her final months in a series of articles for the Washington Post, passed away on March 20 at her residence in Santa Cruz, California, at the age of 49 after battling cancer.

Ettinger’s writings eloquently captured the essence of her experiences and joys amidst her struggle with leiomyosarcoma, a rare and incurable form of cancer. She shared poignant moments such as attending a live performance of “Mamma Mia!” alongside her 14-year-old daughter, Julianna, and indulging in her favorite pastry from a bakery in San Francisco.

Reflecting on her journey, she expressed, “I’ve come to understand that life is a tapestry of fleeting moments, and I am determined to embrace each remaining instant, surrounded by the splendor of nature and the love of my family and friends.”

A familiar contributor to Kveller, a Jewish family website affiliated with the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Ettinger penned pieces like her mother’s cherished kugel recipe, with its “crispy top in light brown hue and a milky coffee-colored center,” and recounted her observance of Yom Kippur as a “non-observant Jew,” coinciding with her 10th wedding anniversary in 2013.

Born in Rochester and raised in Cupertino, California, Ettinger’s passion for journalism ignited during her formative years. She pursued a major in American literature at UC Santa Cruz and furthered her education with a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University in 1999.

Her literary works graced the pages of prestigious publications such as the New York Times, the Washington Post, New York Magazine, Salon, CNN, and Newsweek. In a poignant piece for AARP in 2021, she recounted how her mother’s passing motivated her to delve into Sheila Ettinger’s beloved pastime: mahjong. Additionally, she imparted her writing expertise through classes at Stanford Continuing Studies.

In 2017, she unveiled her memoir and travelogue titled “Sweet Spot: An Ice Cream Binge Across America,” where she humorously shared her habit of stocking her freezer with ice cream worth “between fifteen and thirty dollars” as a precautionary stash rather than for immediate consumption.

Her final article, a poignant reflection titled “I Have Little Time Left. I Hope My Goodbye Inspires You,” published on the Washington Post shortly before her demise, encapsulated her philosophy of prioritizing cherished moments with loved ones and pursuing passions wholeheartedly.

In a heartfelt tribute posthumously penned by her husband, the esteemed writer Dan White, he revealed that Ettinger had dictated her farewell essay to him from a reading room at UC Santa Cruz overlooking a majestic redwood forest. Her profound words resonated with readers worldwide, inspiring them to seize the day and make the most of their lives, regardless of the challenges they face.

Amy’s profound impact extended far beyond her expectations, touching lives across the United States, Canada, Poland, France, and Greece, reaffirming the enduring power of her legacy.