It’s been more than a year since Chicago author Amy Krouse Rosenthal died from ovarian cancer on March 13, 2017, after penning a headline-making dating profile for her husband of 26 years, Jason Rosenthal. Now, the widower is opening up about his late wife’s final weeks, and his pursuit of joy after the devastation of losing the love of his life.
“My wife died of ovarian cancer in our bed,” he told an attentive audience at the recent TED 2018 conference. “I carried her lifeless body down our stairs, through our dining room and our living room to a waiting gurney to have her body cremated. I will never get that image out of my head.”
Ten days before her death, The New York Times published a dating profile titled “You May Want to Marry My Husband” that Amy wrote for Jason. In the moving essay, Amy called Jason “an easy man to fall in love with,” describes him as a “sharp dresser” and an “absolutely wonderful father” to their three children.
The love letter captured the world’s attention, making Jason’s grief public. Still, he said, his final weeks with his wife produced a personal pain he’d never be able to adequately express.
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“To this day I have memories of those final weeks that haunt me,” he continued in his address. “I remember walking backwards to the bathroom, assisting Amy with each step. I felt so strong. I’m not such a big guy, but my arms looked and felt so big and healthy compared to Amy’s frail body.”
He said Amy ate her last meal on Jan. 9 of last year, and survived for the next two months without solid food. She shrank to “half her body weight” he said. He added that although he was glad to have his wife spend her final days in their home, “hospice is not so beautiful for the surviving family members.”
Before Amy died, she and Jason spoke openly about death. This, he said, made it a bit easier for him to fulfill his wife’s very public edict: “I must go on.”
However, in the months following Amy’s death, Jason wasn’t sure whether he’d ever experience joy again — especially after his father died from Parkinson’s disease just four months later.
“I really am sad a lot of the time. I often feel like I’m kind of a mess and I know these feelings apply to other surviving spouses, children, parents and other family members,” he said. Still, he added, “Amy gave permission to move forward and I’m so grateful for that.”
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“Because Amy gave me very public permission to also find happiness, I now have experienced joy from time to time … I’m a very fortunate person. I have the most amazing family that loves and supports me.”
He adds that his wife’s dating profile wasn’t to no affect. Jason recalled a humorous email he received from a woman reader who read the essay.
The message read: “I will marry you when you are ready. Provided you permanently stop drinking, no other conditions. I promise to outlive you. Thank you very much.”
He quipped to the audience: “I do like a good tequila … Yet, how could I say ‘no’ to that proposal?”
The Rosenthal family has also relaunched the Amy Krouse Rosenthal Foundation, which now funds ovarian cancer research and childhood literacy initiatives.