The man whose terminally ill wife wrote the heartbreaking letter 'You may want to marry my husband' reveals how a year of grief changed his life

TEDJason B. Rosenthal’s wife Amy died of ovarian cancer in March 2017.
  • Last year, a dying woman wrote a column titled “You may want to marry my husband,” which was read by more than 5 million people worldwide.
  • Jason Rosenthal, the subject of that column, discussed what the last year has been like without his wife in a recent TED talk.
  • Rosenthal said there’s one simple thing that no one has done for him this year, and he wishes someone would.

Jason Rosenthal’s wife Amy published a rather startling statement last year: “You may want to marry my husband.”

That headline ricocheted around the world after it was published in a March 2017 Modern Love column in The New York Times.

More than 5 million people around the globe read it. That’s more captive eyeballs than the entire population of Ireland, New Zealand, or Costa Rica.

When she wrote the column, Amy was bedridden with ovarian cancer, yearning for a cheeseburger, and hoping that someday after she was gone, the beloved man she’d shared a home with “for, like, 9,490 days,” would make a “fresh start.” She died just 10 days after it was published.

Following the article’s viral popularity, Jason Rosenthal penned a response to his late wife’s letter, titled “My wife said you may want to marry me,” which was published on Father’s Day weekend in the New York Times.

“I am that guy,” he wrote.

In a recent TED talk, Rosenthal revealed a bit more about what the last year has been like without his wife. It hasn’t been easy. Just a few months after Amy died, Rosenthal’s dad took his final breath after decades of dealing with Parkinson’s.

“Guess what? I really am sad a lot of the time,” Rosenthal told the audience at TED in April. “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.”

But he also said that “because Amy gave me very public permission to also find happiness, I now have experienced joy from time to time.”

Rosenthal said many people have come forward to him with heartfelt responses to his late wife’s original love letter: sharing humour, camaraderie in spousal grief, memories of Amy, and even marriage proposals.

But Rosenthal said the one thing he wishes people would do more when their friends and loved ones are grieving is simply offer space to be heard and held. He said memories and images of the final weeks of his wife’s life still haunt him, like the moment after she died, when he had to carry Amy’s body down the stairs from their bedroom to a waiting gurney.

“If you know someone who has been through the hospice experience,acknowledge that,” he said.Just say you heard this guy Jasontalk about how tough it must be to have those memories,and that you’re there if they ever want to talk about it.”

No one has ever offered to lend him that kind of ear since his wife died, he said, adding, “I know this sounds unbelievable.”

Finally, Rosenthal finished his talk with an offering for anyone dealing with grief, whether it’s a painful divorce, the death of a loved one, or the loss of a job.

You can hear that offering and listen to Rosenthal’s entire 14-minute TED talk below:

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