Marry my husband, says dying author

Dying wish: “I need to say this while I have a) your attention, and b) a pulse.” © Kevin Nance

“He is an easy man to fall in love with. I did it in one day,” wrote Amy Krouse Rosenthal in a moving essay in The New York Times. Is true love about setting someone free once you are gone?

It is a dating profile with all of the usual information: “5-foot-10, 160 pounds, with salt-and-pepper hair and hazel eyes.” Its subject, Jason, is a “sharp dresser” who “enjoys keeping in shape” and “loves listening to live music”.

And yet this is far from an ordinary profile. For one thing, it was published in The New York Times on Saturday. For another, it was written by Jason’s wife: Amy Krouse Rosenthal, an author who was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in September 2015.

“I have never been on Tinder, Bumble or eHarmony, but I’m going to create a general profile for Jason,” Rosenthal explained. She then detailed the things she loves most about him, from his excellent cooking (“he can flip a pancake”) to his “wonderful” skills as a father. And he is handsome, she adds. “I’m going to miss looking at that face.”

At the end of the essay, she admits that she only has a few days left being a person on this planet. She says her dying wish is: “The right person reads this, finds Jason, and another love story begins.”

The article received hundreds of comments from readers, and was shared on social media around the world. Many said it made them cry. “This is the reason the word ‘heartache’ exists,” wrote one journalist on Twitter.

It is not unusual for widowed spouses to find new partners later in life — particularly men. “There is often a desire to repeat the happiness they knew,” explained gender studies expert Susan Shapiro Barash in 2006.

In the same year, the US census bureau found that widowed men over 65 were ten times more likely than women to remarry. In the 1930s, a sociologist found that it took men an average of just two-and-a-half years to find a second wife.

But remarriage is not always welcomed by family and friends, especially if it is seen as “too soon”. It can also be difficult for the new spouse, especially if they feel they are being compared to the deceased: a phenomenon that Barash calls “Rebecca syndrome”.

Til death us do part

“Why the rush and pressure to consider pairing up again?” wrote one widower underneath Rosenthal’s article. Grief is a terrible thing. It can take a long time to get over the loss of someone you loved, and this process should not be hurried. For the most romantic-minded people, it may even be impossible. How can anyone ever replace the love of their life?

It is not about replacing the person, counter others. It is about finding new ways to be happy; about making the most of life after learning how short it can be. As Rosenthal demonstrated so beautifully, true love means wanting the best for our partners — even if we are not there to see it. After all, finding someone new does not mean forgetting who came before.

You Decide

  1. When is it still “too soon” for someone to get married after their partner dies?
  2. Which is more romantic: a widowed spouse who never remarries? Or a dying spouse who finds their partner someone new?

Activities

  1. If you had just a few days to live, what one sentence would you want to pass on to your loved ones?
  2. Rosenthal was writing for the “Modern Love” column in The New York Times, which has been running since 2004. Write your own 500-word essay inspired by the theme. (Remember, “love” is not always romantic!)

Some People Say...

“Don’t grieve. Anything you lose comes round in another form.”

Rumi

What do you think?

Q & A

Yikes — surely I don’t have to worry about this yet?
Hopefully not! But romance and death have always been paired in mysterious ways; Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet is considered the greatest love story of all time, partly because its heroes cannot bear to live if the other is dead. Indeed, “I can’t live without you” is a familiar line in romance novels and love songs. So it is useful to unpick that relationship, and consider whether there is another way.
When should I start thinking about what happens after I die?
It is normal to think about this from time to time, although you should try not to let these thoughts consume you. In Britain, you must be 18 or over to make a legally-binding will. And there is no need for you to start worrying about life insurance just yet.

Word Watch

Amy Krouse Rosenthal
The author has published more than 30 children’s picture books, and two memoirs for adults. She has also produced several short videos and guided journals.
Ovarian cancer
The ovaries are the two parts of the female reproductive system which produce eggs. As ovarian cancer is difficult to detect in early stages, it can often spread before it is diagnosed.
Ten times
Although this statistic is still striking, it is worth noting that women tend to live longer than men. This means that there are often fewer “eligible” older men than there are women.
Sociologist
Ray H. Abrams, who worked at the University of Pennsylvania. He used a book called Who’s Who in America, which recorded biographical details of “notable American contemporaries”. He compared the date of a wife’s death with the date of her husband’s next marriage for 1,300 men.
Rebecca
A novel by Daphne du Maurier, published in 1938. In it a young woman tells the story of her marriage to a widower. His imposing housekeeper constantly compares the narrator to her husband’s first wife, Rebecca.

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