Before She Died, She Wrote Her Husband a Personal Ad. Now, He Opens Up.
It’s been just over a year since Amy Krouse Rosenthal, the author behind the viral “Modern Love” column “You May Want To Marry My Husband,” passed away from Ovarian cancer. She was 51.
It’s the first yartzeit, the anniversary of passing, of Krouse Rosenthal, a beloved children’s book writer and memoirist who introduced the world to her husband just as she was leaving it. In her New York Times column, Krouse Rosenthal penned a love letter to her spouse in the form of a personal ad. Ten days after it was published, she died.
Krouse Rosenthal’s essay about her husband was read by over five million people. Now, with a year of grief under his belt, Jason Rosenthal is speaking out about what that tremendous loss has been for him in light of the legacy his wife left behind. Rosenthal delivered a TED Talk on grief, which was released by Ted on Tuesday. In fourteen thoughtful, anguished minutes Rosenthal tackles the question — how do you process a loved one’s death when her greatest wish is that you learn to move on?
In her essay, Krouse Rosenthal wrote that her husband is an easy person to fall in love with. “I did it in one day,” she recalled. But mourning her isn’t so easy — in his talk, Rosenthal speaks candidly about being told that he handles his wife’s death with “grace.”
“Guess what?” he says. “I really am sad a lot of the time.” In the most wrenching moments of his talk, he details the moment he had to face that Krouse Rosenthal really was gone. “My wife died of ovarian cancer in our bed,” he says. “I carried her lifeless body down our stairs to a waiting gurney to have her body cremated. I will never get that image out of my head.” But Rosenthal is eager to share his experiences and his wisdom with other mourners and even with those who haven’t experienced great loss. “The great irony of my life is that it took losing my wife of 26 years, my best friend, and the mother of my three children, to truly appreciate each moment and each day,” he told the Today Show.
Rosenthal says that he feels his wife’s presence with him when he smiles, laughs, and spends time with the couple’s three children. He is also reminded of her when he receives missives from the legions of women who have reached out to him on his deceased wife’s recommendation. “I will marry you when you are ready,” read one proposal. “Provided you permanently stop drinking, no other conditions. I promise to outlive you. Thank you very much.” These letters, which began pouring in immediately after his wife’s death, provided “a nice bit of levity,” said Rosenthal. “To find some humor during the depths of grieving” can be a helpful thing, said Rosenthal.
But he’s not sure that he’ll ever marry. Rosenthal, who really does come off as a handsome, sensitive, ideal spouse as advertised, says he lives “day to day.” He wants those still living to imagine their lives as his wife imagined his — a “blank sheet of paper” upon which to create something new. “Amy gave me very public permission to also find happiness,” he says.
Rosenthal misses his wife’s warmth, her humor, the cornbread croutons she made for Shabbat dinner. But he wants to grant that permission to live and create that his wife willed to him to every grieving spouse, child, sibling, and parent.
Jenny Singer is the deputy Lifestyle editor for the Forward. You can reach her at Singer@forward.com or on Twitter @jeanvaljenny