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Marry My Husband

Marry My Husband

Amy Krouse Rosenthal’s moving plea for her husband to find love after her death.

by

Amy Krouse Rosenthal died last week. A short time before her death she wrote a profoundly moving essay, “You May Want to Marry My Husband” in the New York Times’ Modern Love column that created an unprecedented whirlwind of reaction.

The author, a prolific writer of children’s books who was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, chose an entirely different theme for what she called her Valentine’s Day message to her husband. After 26 years of what she acknowledges as an idyllic marriage, she wanted more than anything else to leave this world with the assurance that the husband she loved so dearly would find another partner worthy of his qualities.

So she wrote a love letter to extol her husband’s unique assets and abilities. She tells us how easy a man he is to fall in love with – because she did it just one day. She praises his gifts as a father; his kindness and compassion; his fantastic skill in the kitchen; his artistic talent; his romantic nature - and with that all his incredible good looks. She shares with us how much she would have loved the next 26 years with him. But since she knows her days are numbered she concludes: “I am wrapping this up on Valentine’s Day, and the most genuine, non-vase-oriented gift I can hope for is that the right person reads this, finds Jason, and another love story begins.”

It was heart wrenching to read. Even more so, to know that Amy’s death shortly followed. But what I think is the takeaway message from this remarkable story is something that I as a Rabbi have often tried to communicate – a message often difficult to absorb but deeply important in the lives of people forced to cope with the aftermath of tragedy.

Losing a loved one is an experience beyond compare. The Talmud recognized that “a husband chiefly dies only for his wife, a wife only for her husband.” Those who try to offer comfort by claiming they understand the mourner’s pain are untruthful as well as insensitive. The agony of loss for a beloved partner in life simply has no parallel.

And yet Jewish law has a remarkable demand upon the conclusion of the seven-day shiva period. With the close of the intense time of mourning, those who rise from their grief are to step outside and walk around the block – symbolically expressing the idea that life must go on and it is their duty to rejoin the living.

The greatest gift we owe to those who truly loved us is to find the happiness they would surely have wanted for us.

The Torah tells us that when Abraham lost his beloved wife Sarah he eulogized her and he wept over her. He recalled her beauty – both external and internal. He remembered that she was always at his side, when he invited guests to his tent and when he taught the truth of monotheism to nonbelievers. He paid an exorbitant sum to have her buried in the most special place on earth, according to tradition the cave of the final resting place for Adam and Eve.

And then the Torah tells us an amazing follow-up to the story. Abraham remarried. He had more children. Somehow Abraham knew that his life was not meant to be over as long as God gave him more years to live.

It is important to note that Abraham did not consider his subsequent remarriage in any sense a diminution of his previous relationship with the matriarch of our people. Sarah remains forevermore the esteemed and noble figure of our ancestry. But Abraham demonstrated by taking a wife after the loss of the love of his youth that he understood God’s decree from the time of creation that “it is not good for man to remain alone” – that human beings need companionship and that joy can only come about when the world is shared by four eyes rather than two.

I can think of nothing more noble than Amy Rosenthal’s public declaration of her desire for her husband’s happiness, to whatever extent possible, after her demise. Those who were critical of her essay and those who feel that true love ought to exclude the possibility for meaningful existence after its passing should find meaning from the life of Abraham - and keep faith, as Amy Rosenthal did, in life offering different, new and fulfilling blessings.

Death of a loved one should not move survivors to choose personal death as well. Indeed, the greatest gift we owe to those who truly loved us is to find the happiness they would surely have wanted for us.

March 18, 2017

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The opinions expressed in the comment section are the personal views of the commenters. Comments are moderated, so please keep it civil.

Visitor Comments: 16

(13) RMK, March 22, 2017 5:39 PM

I remarried after 9 years of widowhood

When my husband of 40 years died, I thought I never wanted to remarry. That was an appropriate feeling for the first few years while I was trying to figure out how I could go on without him. And it may be the choice of others to never remarry but for me and my new husband whose wife passed away after 46 years of marriage, we, with the help of G-d, married under a chuppah 2 months ago. It's wonderful and I wish everyone who wants it much Hatzlacha!

(12) Donna Perel, March 21, 2017 12:10 AM

I only wished...

Over 41 years ago my mother, of blessed memory, penned a letter to me about a year before she was nifter. I received it after she was gone. One thing that she hoped was for my father, of blessed memory, to remarry as a tribute to the strength of their marriage. He never did. My bracha for Jason is to find love again and that Amy will look down and smile.

(11) Anonymous, March 20, 2017 10:18 PM

a widow's obligation?

This story is so touching and beautiful and I think if I were in her shoes, I would wish the same for my husband. Rabbi Blech points out that a man, like Abraham, should mourn genuinely and move on into a new marriage. This is even a very normal masculine response. But what about widows? What place do we have when we are past childbearing years? My children nearing independence, I feel increasingly useless since their father died a few years ago. Like Mr. Rubinson, I want to believe my life has some purpose or plan, but beats me what it is or how to figure it out.

Sam Rubinson, March 22, 2017 1:58 AM

Thank you for reading my response

It is the same for widows. Everyone is on this earth to enjoy life. That is what G-d wants. Everyone also has a purpose Your kids will always need you, maybe not in the same way. I have taken it upon myself to reach out to people who have lost loved ones, especially spouses. If I can help try to explain things, please contact me at rubinson-family@msn.com

(10) Ruth Rasnic, March 20, 2017 4:24 PM

May she rest in peace.

It takes courage, which this lady had, and great love, to leave such a will.
In time, her beloved bereaved husband will find someone to fill the vacant place in his heart.

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