04 March 2017

Nothing > Love

This morning I learned that one of my favorite writers, Amy Krouse Rosenthal, is dying – before long – of ovarian cancer.  I had known that she was sick for about the past month, but I didn’t realize that her situation was so grim.  Gratefully, in this day and age, a cancer diagnosis isn’t a certain death, but unfortunately there are still many types of cancer that are not as treatable as others.  By now, you've probably heard about her from the article in the New York Times, where she essentially writes a dating ad for her soon-to-be-widowed husband.  It is one of the loveliest love letters I've ever read.

AKR, as I think of this writer, has written both children’s books and several memoirs and books for adults.  Her children’s books are sweet, often with a theme of inclusion or permission to be your true self.  I’ve thoroughly enjoyed her memoirs.  The first one I came across was An Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life.  In this book, she chronicles her life, encyclopedia-style.  AKR is a few years younger than me, so she grew up in the age of encyclopedias.  This book contains short smatterings of her thoughts on various topics, alphabetized and cross-referenced.  There was a set of Collier’s Encyclopedias in my house that my parents probably spent far too much on and which I loved.  They contained the entirety of the known universe.  Anything I wanted to know more about lurked within those heavy tomes.  I can still recall the weight of the volume on my cross-legged lap, the cracking sound of the spines as they were opened, revealing glossy pages and sometimes mystifying black and white photos.  AKR’s uncanny ability to connect interesting commonalities of words or ideas is equal parts amusing, poignant, and oh, so true.  I identified with her ideas and experiences on such a deep level that I often found myself nodding my head in agreement, wondering how she knew me so well.

Through her works, I connected to a couple of friends.  One of those was a college friend, Tara, who was lucky enough to host AKR at her school in Thailand where she was working as a librarian a few years ago.  We both loved AKR’s writing and Tara was sweet enough to send me temporary tattoos from the swag AKR brought to her school.  Given AKR’s latest article, the message is especially pointed.

This fall, I read her latest memoir, Textbook Amy KR.  It’s an easy read with lots of negative space.  For example, here's a page  that struck such a chord I took a photo of it and posted it on my Instagram:

The book also provides many opportunities for readers to interact with one another and AKR.  Readers could share images of rainbows, or enter a contest for AKR to send one lucky participant a pecan pie. 

AKR sees the world through a charmed lens, and it is heartbreaking to me to learn that her diagnosis is so grim.  Her symbol is a yellow umbrella – something bright and sunny on a grey day.  I’ll sport one of her temporary tattoos this weekend to remind me to rise above that which is petty and draining, and to hug and smile and live a little more deliberately.  And to remember always one of her best observations:  Nothing > Love.

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