Tugging at your heart-strings


Prolific Chicago children’s author and TED conference speaker Amy Krouse Rosenthal wrote in The New York Times online Style section in early March of her quest for more time. If she couldn’t beat the dreaded cancer that had stricken her body, then she wanted to make sure that her husband found someone new once she passed away.

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If the headline “You May Want to Marry My Husband” and accompanying essay didn’t wake you up when you saw the column pop-up on your screen, then not much else will. Like many readers, I read Rosenthal’s 1,200-word “mock online dating profile for her husband” and came away emotionally pulled into her life and story.

On one hand, I completely got her sarcasm and wit. She complained about facing a deadline to get husband a new spouse while she still had readers’ attention and, most importantly, a pulse.

At the same time, I felt guilty for complaining about my own silly problems, including failing to get an early start to my busy day and griping at my wife before we left for work that morning about a misplaced electric bill.

I had everything to live for and  I still managed to grumble and complain my way through my day. Rosenthal was down to counting minutes, making sure that she made every last second count, and she was looking to bring peace to the love of her life.

From a strange pain to something big

Since 2015, Rosenthal had been fighting ovarian cancer. “As the couple head home in the early morning of Sept. 6, somehow through the foggy shock of it all, they make the connection that today, the day they learned what had been festering, is also the day they would have officially kicked off their empty-nestering. The youngest of their three children had just left for college. So many plans instantly went poof.”

She went onto use the rest of the piece talking about her life and why her husband is such a great catch. She wrote how he’s a wonderful father; kind and loving, bringing flowers to her first ultrasound; loves listening to live music; and is a great travel companion.

“This is a man who emerges from the minimart or gas station and says, ‘Give me your palm.’  And, voila, a colorful gumball appears. (He knows I love all the flavors, but white.)”  She offered her hope that the right person would read the column and that another love story for her husband would begin again.

Writing with no regrets

“I want more time with Jason. I want more time with my children. I want more time sipping martinis at the Green Mill Jazz Club on Thursday nights. But that is not going to happen.

She wrote that she expected to have “only a few days left on this planet.” And she was right. Ten days later Rosenthal died. She was only 51.

When I saw Rosenthal’s obituary, I was saddened, but I also couldn’t help but be amazed how she comically explained the human experience. From her message, I made note of the obvious: We have our good days and our bad, our happy moments and times of despair. The challenge is how we use this time.

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With a grateful heart

I’m convinced that writers like Rosenthal are really angels in disguise walking amongst us mortals, Angels on Earth so-to-speak, brought here to remind us why we work so hard and struggle for a better life. We’re given them a short time “to help explain us to us” and then they’re gone, snapped up in the middle of the night.

I could be wrong.

For me, though, I read Rosenthal’s piece and later her obituary and came away even more thankful for my wife and kids and extended family and friends. I hugged my kids a little tighter that night and made a point to tell them that I love them and are proud of them.

In the end, I was thankful for another day to breath-in and breath-out and make whatever difference I can in my own little piece of the world.

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