Chicago author Amy Krouse Rosenthal was dying of ovarian cancer when she wrote an essay about her beloved husband, Jason.
She told readers how she fell in love with him in a day, how he showed up at her first ultrasound with flowers, how he still presented her with gum balls when he emerged from gas stations and minimarts. He reveled in art, live music and his kids, she wrote, and — bonus! — he was quite the looker. If all of this sounded like the world’s most unlikely personal ad, that was no accident.
Rosenthal wanted her husband to find love again when she was gone, and she was casting a wide net, with an essay framed as a call for candidates.
Millions read that essay, published in The New York Times in March 2017 just 10 days before Rosenthal died. And many wondered, what would become of the man Rosenthal so vividly depicted as a real-life romantic hero?
Jason Rosenthal offers answers in his new memoir, “My Wife Said You May Want to Marry Me: A Memoir.”
A lawyer and now a public speaker on the topic of grieving, Rosenthal, 55, tells a love story that begins with two Chicago 20-somethings on a blind date. There’s love, as well as adventure and the joy of a tight-knit, growing family.
And throughout a 26-year-marriage, there’s a striking lack of conflict and frustration.
“I know that it sounds a bit like a fairy tale,” Rosenthal said. “And the truth is we were very, very happy and super compatible, and we gave selflessly to each other. We gave each other space, and we gave each other (closeness) when we needed it. ”
We asked Rosenthal about his late wife, his grieving process and what it’s like to be dating again. The following interview was edited for space and clarity.
Some people took Amy’s call for romantic candidates quite literally. What was it like to be going through intense grieving and at the same time being kind of hit on by strangers?
For many months, it was really something that I was not able to process. I was just deep in the throes of my own grief, and while I could see the physical signs of people reaching out in terms of letters and trinkets and things like that, I did not really pay attention to it. I sort of stashed them. It wasn’t something that I truly, truly appreciated until much later.
How many letters and emails did you get?
Over a thousand. I continue to get emails now that are so powerful and beautiful. People seem to really be searching for a place to connect on the topic of loss, and it’s not limited to losing someone close to you. It’s just all kinds of issues, everything from losing a pet, to being laid off, to going through a divorce and everything in between.
Your grieving process involved some striking ups and downs.
Grief has no timetable. There are going to be moments when you’re going to find joy, and you’re going to say, “Oh my God! I just smiled." And then there’ll be another day — not necessarily a milestone like a birthday or an anniversary, although those are very painful. It could be a random Monday morning when you’re having your cup of coffee. So it’s a process.
How are you doing now?
I feel very grateful about where I am in my life. I am comfortable talking about what I’ve been through. It feels good, mostly because the responses I get from total strangers (as a public speaker with a focus on grieving) have been absolutely amazing.
What about your social life? Are you dating again?
As I say in the book, it would be dishonest not to talk a little bit about dating. I’ve met men who are just absolutely unable to move forward, and other men who’ve dated a month after losing a spouse. I’ve seen the gamut of guys, so I just wanted people to know, it’s OK. In my case, I was given literal express permission, not only to me, but to the entire world, that Amy wanted me to move on and find love with someone else. I don’t know how I could have done it personally without that gift, but I’m trying to pay it forward and give that gift to other people.