Amy Krouse Rosenthal died on Monday, and I’m still caught up in the confusion, sadness, and unfairness of that. I’ve lost two dear friends to cancer, Heather and Kelly, and both times I was struck by the way death just doesn’t care. It doesn’t matter how much good you are doing for others and the world, or how much you love living and have left to do, or how much you matter and are loved, it sometimes steps in way too early and says, “that’s enough now.” The only good thing that comes out of it for me is that these women — strong, smart, kind, creative, and funny — continue to inspire me to be my best self, live my fullest life, keep trying, never give up. Amy’s editor at Random House said, “Amy ran at life full speed and heart first.” Now that she’s gone, I’ll try to do the same.
In 2013, I took part in a “Plant a Kiss Blog Hop Party” in honor of Amy’s birthday. There were 18 bloggers connected with the project, each doing something we thought would spread a little extra joy, color, connection, poetry, or magic in the world. Plant a Kiss Day was created to celebrate the message and spirit behind Amy’s work and the whimsical book she created, Plant a Kiss.
My dear friend Sherry Richert Belul hosted the last Plant A Kiss Blog Hop Party. When Amy’s Modern Love column, You May Want to Marry My Husband, was published on The New York Times, Amy revealed in it that her cancer was back and that “I probably have only a few days left being a person on this planet.” The first person I emailed was Sherry, asked her if she’d seen the essay, if she knew. She was as shocked as I was, and immediately went to work planning another Plant a Kiss event to honor Amy.
My Plant a Kiss this time around: There is an elementary school very near to where I live, a bilingual school whose motto is “a Place to Grow.” I’ve bought a copy of almost every one of Amy’s kid books, including the two that have Spanish versions, and am donating them to their library. I emailed the principal to be sure the donation would be useful and wanted, and she emailed back, said she loved the idea, and even suggested I might come read the book to a class and share a bit with them about Amy. They are on Spring Break this week, so we are still working out the details, but it will happen soon. I’m also am in touch with the school’s family liaison to work out a donation to help supply a family in need with some extra groceries.
Amy described herself simply as, “a person who likes to make things.” She published over 30 children’s books, two memoirs and various journals; made several films; gave two TED Talks; and seemed to constantly be in the midst of a new creative project, many of them collaborative. Her longtime literary agent, Amy Rennert, said Amy “was the most life-affirming person, and love-affirming person.” Fellow author John Green, (who credits her with helping to start his career by asking him to write and record an essay for WBEZ) tweeted: “She was a brilliant writer, and an even better friend.” Green also has said her work shows that “If you pay the right kind of attention, the mundane becomes beautiful.” In The New York Times Book Review in 2009 Bruce Handy said of her work, “Her books radiate fun the way tulips radiate spring: they are elegant and spirit-lifting.” Amy herself said, “Invariably, I will have to move on before I have had enough. My first word was ‘more.’ It may very well be my last.”
In a world where there is so much conflict and suffering, helping each other, cultivating wonder, paying attention and being amazed are efforts worth making, even and especially when nothing else seems to make sense. And as for Amy,
May this dark grief flower with hope
In every heart that loves you.
May you continue to inspire us:
To enter each day with a generous heart.
To serve the call of courage and love.
~from “The Death of a Beloved” by John O’Donohue