“I’m facing a deadline, in this case, a pressing one,” wrote the memoirist, children’s book author, and filmmaker Amy Krouse Rosenthal, J87, in “You May Want to Marry My Husband,” her March 3 New York Times Modern Love essay. “I need to say this (and say it right) while I have a) your attention, and b) a pulse.”

What she needed to say was that the man she’d married twenty-six years ago, the Chicago attorney Jason Brian Rosenthal, is a “dreamy, let’s-go-for-it travel companion.” Also a “sharp dresser” with a “flair for fabulous socks.” Also an “absolutely wonderful father”—he is “compassionate,” she said, “and he can flip a pancake.” And she noted as well the reason she was compiling this dating profile: her husband would soon be single, because she herself was deep into a losing battle against ovarian cancer.

“You May Want to Marry My Husband” quickly went viral, drawing nearly 4.5 million online readers within just ten days of its publication. Yet perhaps the most remarkable thing about it was how perfectly in character it was, how much of a piece with the author’s lifelong radical openness and quest to connect. Her memoir Textbook Amy Krouse Rosenthal, published last August, invited readers to text in ideas for matching tattoos they’d like to get with her, and a month after it hit the shelves, she was off to the tattoo parlor with a sixty-two-year-old librarian and total stranger from Wisconsin. Years earlier, in June of 2008, she posted a YouTube video titled “17 things i made,” which featured, among other creations, her books, her three children, a sandwich, and a promise: to meet all comers at “8/8/08 at 8:08 pm” in Chicago’s Millennium Park so they could “make a cool 18th thing together.” The hundreds who joined her collaborated on her short film The Beckoning of Lovely. Over her prolific career, she delivered TED Talks and hosted radio shows, authored twenty-eight picture books and two memoirs, and produced scores of films and videos.

Rosenthal died on the morning of March 13. But even if her husband proves to be as receptive to new people and experiences as she was, it may be a while before he marries again. In a statement released shortly before her death, he recalled what it was like to read the Modern Love essay himself. “I was shocked at the beauty, slightly surprised at the incredible prose given her condition, and, of course, emotionally ripped apart,” he said. “Unfortunately, I do not have the same aptitude for the written word, but, if I did, I can assure you that my tale would be about the most epic love story…ours.”

Jumbo Bio photo

Beth Horning, editor-at-large for Tufts magazines, can be reached at elizabeth.horning@tufts.edu.