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Part II: My Wife Said You May Want to Marry Me | With André Holland

Brian Rea for The New York Times.
Brian Rea for The New York Times.

Last week, you heard an essay by Amy Krouse Rosenthal — "You May Want to Marry my Husband." It was published just days before she died of ovarian cancer.

This past summer, her husband Jason wrote his own Modern Love essay — called “My Wife Said you May want to marry me.” It’s read by Andre Holland. He's the executive producer and star of "High Flying Bird," now on Netflix and in select theaters.

Where Are They Now?

When we talked to Jason Rosenthal, he told us what it was like to take care of his wife in the final days of her life.

"During the time that Amy was in hospice, we were really focused on making the end of her life as beautiful as it could be," he says. "And there was no guidebook," Jason says.

"But ... I tried to make it beautiful," he continues. "For some reason candles spoke to me. Candles symbolized life in different ways, that some could be small and last a short while, others burned for months. So we had candles burn all over our home. We had family come in, we had our close friends on another evening. I invited in musicians to play for Amy. We did our best to make that time for her as beautiful as it could be."

"And by the way, it was not always beautiful," he adds. "It was extraordinarily painful and hard, and my kids were incredible."

During her illness, Jason says that he and Amy had many conversations about parenting their three children.

"One of the things I wanted to ask her was, 'How am I going to do this without you? You're the best mom ever, and it seems so natural to you,'" he says. "And she flat-out assured me that the kids love [me], and [I'm] a great parent, and they're also not little kids anymore."

"But filling that void is impossible and I'm not pretending to know how to be mom, I'm just doing my best to try to be able to be dad," Jason says. "And I do find myself from time to time thinking, 'What would Amy say?' Because she did have a gift of knowing exactly what each child needed in any given circumstance. So I'm doing my best."

We asked Jason about the blank space at the end of Amy's essay, and if it felt like a gift or a burden.

"That blank space has allowed me to lift my head up in the morning in the first few months. Even though I was deeply emotional and deep in the throes of grief, I took that as a gift," he says. "And I was able to continue my life forward."

"I’ve done that more and more. I’ve taken advantage of opportunities that have been given to me. I know that there are many people out there who have never had conversations with their spouses and family, or been told something so specifically, like Amy provided for me, that struggle quite a bit, and never really emerged from those deep throes of grief."

Although he's been given that fresh start, things have not been easy for Jason.

"I think a full life looks much different than it did before, let's be honest," he says. "It's been almost two years and I have had a great deal of difficulty engaging again with what I did professionally, which was being a lawyer. I'm trying to make each day, each week, meaningful in some way to me."

Jason says that he's still receiving letters from readers, describing their own experiences of grief or reaching out in the hope of starting a relationship. He hasn't responded to any of the people seeking romance, and doesn't think he will. But over time, he's gone back to the letters, and found humor in some of them. One stands out:

"Obviously someone spent some time on it, and it said, 'I will marry you as soon as you are ready, provided you permanently stop drinking. No other conditions, and I promise to outlive you.' I don't know how that applies to my life. But it really did make me laugh."

But 'There's this huge hole or void in my heart that's taken up by someone else," he says. "Because the truth is ... I never fell out of love with someone. I will always love Amy. And whoever ends up with me will need to embrace that."
Voices In This Episode

Courtesy André Holland
Courtesy André Holland
Courtesy Jason Rosenthal
Courtesy Jason Rosenthal

Jason Rosenthal
"I have practiced law and developed real estate in Chicago for half of my life. But that is only what I did '9 to 5.' What made me better at my profession and as a human being getting through each day was realizing my thirst for learning and doing. I practiced yoga intensely, I traveled the world with my wife and my family, I learned to paint and made a home studio and I developed a passion for cooking. In my adult life I have read with a thirst for knowledge, everything from the most meaty fiction, fascinating nonfiction and magazines.
My family is what makes me who I am today. I was married to the most amazing woman for half of my life. We raised 3 incredible children in Chicago, a culturally vibrant and livable city with people of good Midwestern values. When my bride died of ovarian cancer after 26 years of marriage I got in touch with real pain. I immediately reevaluated my life’s work. Now, I speak publicly on issues related to processing grief and finding hope and joy amongst the pain. I co-authored a book with my daughter Paris, "Dear Boy," that will be released on April 23, 2019 and am working on a memoir. I am also the President of the Board of a non-profit organization created in Amy’s name, the Amy Krouse Rosenthal Foundation, and am fueled by its mission to provide programs in the child literacy space and to provide funding for early detection of ovarian cancer.
My future is a blank space waiting to be filled."

Caitlin O'Keefe Producer, Podcasts & New Programs
Caitlin O'Keefe was a producer of podcasts and new programming at WBUR.



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