Marisa Tomei ("The Rose Tattoo") reads an essay by Judith Newman about a woman fulfilling her husband's unusual dying wish.
This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
Modern love. The pod cast is supported by produced by the island. At W b. You are faster. Oh, the from the New York Times and W B. You are Boston. This is modern, the stories of love loss and redemption. I'm your host magnetron puberty and the let's be honest. When you're in a loving relationship, you often do things for your partner that you'd rather not do because that's love, but have you ever gotten a request from your significant other that might go a little too far
Judith Newman did and she writes about it in her essay he's going back to his former wife sort of it's red by Marisa Maurizio may, who starring now in the rose tattoo on Broadway. there's something I have to tell you John said: do you remember ever wanting to hear the sentence after that one? I don't. There's something I have to tell you: has never in the history of man been followed. By we won the lottery or I have discovered a cure for blindness. This is especially true when the person uttering that sentence as your husband and he is about to die. I'm not a big believer in deathbed confession,
I intend to keep it all to myself unless my own there's something I have to tell you is you were always my favorite too, who ever walks in the room. Everybody should be, it might ass bad. You won't record John and I were lying in the cramped hospital bed that I had installed in my bedroom because I had decided to go for pioneer woman and tend to him myself still not sure why normally I'm the queen of outsourcing. Also, I am a terrible nurse My decision to care for him at home was made in an instant he wanted to be here. Are sixteen year old, twin boys desperately wanted him here, and so did I, despite the fact that this was the first time we had lived together in twenty five years of marriage, we had always kept separate homes.
A week earlier, we had learned that John had three separate forms of cancer, pancreatic, liver and prostate. A cancer over achiever. As I told him, I can't remember for the years phrase his doctor used to describe the usefulness of came o or radiation, but it roughly translated to pissing in the wind solid barrel, chested bearded Floppy haired John
always looked like a bugs Bunny cartoon version of the opera singer. He was I adored his looks now he was a skeleton. John spoke with difficulty as he held my hand, so there's something I have to tell you. He said I made a certain promise to Amy. Amy was his former wife. She had died of breast cancer about thirty years ago. Before John and I met I promised her. He said That we would be buried together. Oh it turns out that when John said he had kept Amy close, he hadn't been. Speaking metaphorically, she was in
closet at his studio apartment. Could I fetch her also? Could I find her passport and death certificate? I would need them to carry out his plan. There was a field in Northern England where John had played as a child. He wanted to be buried there with Amy, but not scattered. The. Still existed, but the area was no longer so rural and John didn't want to end up blanketing a local parking lot. So I was to take his box of ashes and Amy's get a shovel and probably a flashlight this was illegal, so we need to do it at night. The funeral, equivalent of a diamond dash joining me would be John's ninety year old sister and his nephew, along with our sons, Henry and Gus, who are currently far more focused on the adventure of the illicit burial than on what it all meant
I had always been sure you'd go first, John added. Sadly, the fact that I am thirty years younger had in no way to turn him from this thought. John seemed the grumpy asked of men, but in key ways he was an optimist, And, of course, I would have followed your instructions for your own burial. He said I would have cremated you and placed you in the mausoleum with your parents. I know you wanted nothing more. This didn't seem the time to point out that, for at least ten years I have been telling him that I loathed the mausoleum that it arranged for my body to be donated to a medical school and that I put aside money for a big party, afterward John, never listened, that combined with his almost comical frugality
I had already been warned. I would need to find the cheapest cremation place in New York had often threatened to sink our marriage, but I guess I could save that conversation to have with myself late at night plenty of time. For that much time for anything else, we talked and talked. I was a good husband, wasn't I he said at least I didn't chase after girls. No, I thought a little churlish early because then you would have. pay for them. You were wonderful. I said both thoughts were true. He wanted to make sure I understood his plan, but about thirty minutes
Into this conversation, he suddenly looked sheepish as if it had just occurred to him that his wife of twenty five years may not actually be on board to carry out this promise. He had made to his former wife more than three decades earlier, the you don't have to do this right away. He said, in fact you could wait until you go then the boys take off three of us. That would be fine too. I said. Amy was midwestern western blonde, aristocratic and gracious and a common. Equestrian on mezzo soprano seventeen years older than John before she got sick. They had worked their way across Europe, singing at all the big opera houses. She was everything I am not
John and I used to joke that. The only thing he and I had in common with a mutual hatred of fish. Amy and John shared everything he loved us both and he made a family with me, but I never kid myself. Explain the situation to my friend Hillary over lunch, including the part where I could hold on the burial until my own demise. I really don't want to be there ass. She stirred we'll. I grasped here's. What you did Hilary said you put Amy in some sort of suspicious container something metal that the t say. People can't see through in the screening Amy looks like a bomb.
Hopes the tea essay we'll just have to keep her. Oh well me I tried, I could have explained instead of laughing, I suppose, by its hard, without sounding saccharine. One of the things I loved about my husband was that he kept his promises even stupid ones, that made no difference to anyone, but himself you wanted a light, bulb changed. It was going to be changed exactly at the time he said, and it would be with the sixty walk Bob, not. hundred because who the hell knows he had his reasons. This punctiliousness and attention to detail meant he didn't. Promises freely
and he said no to life far more often than he said. Yes, but also this reliability was at the centre of his John S. He lived small but he loved Deep John couldn't quite remember where Amy's papers were, but he knew they were in his apartment, and I did too, since he threw out nothing during the search. I found other things I wanted to ask him about. Why did my peace, loving husband, have a police summons for disorderly conduct and Thousand and two that he never mentioned to me
were there photos of him, happily rowing a woman. I had never heard about in a pond in central park, and why was she dressed as a mime? By the time I decided to ask, he could no longer speak. He had the most beautiful voice, a bus so profound, and I am glad our last conversations did not involve the police or mysterious mimes. I found the papers in about thirty seconds. He didn't even need to tell me where he put them. I knew my husband John died.
three days later on his eighty sixth birthday, which, since he was a fan of order and symmetry, seemed purposeful. My son Henry's response. When I broke the news. Well, the Good NEWS is now you get to be the favorite parent in August, Henry Gus and I will be headed to England. The cremation was super cheap and the container is plastic. gotten for Newcastle United Stickers. So the Henry. decorated with his favorite team, Amy and her papers are with us too
I will let my son's carry John and I will carry Amy. I want her to get there safely. She's been waiting to join John for a long time, though I doubt he ever said to her hey. Do you want to be secretly buried in an english field in the middle of nowhere? In my life, I have been so lucky. Though I too wonder is this my love story. Is it theirs. maybe it's hours, that's reading, Judith Newman's essay he's going back
his former wife sort of Judith carry out Jones wish will catch up with her after the break car Carmax, gives you the freedom to shop. However, you like you, can shop for a car online and on the lot, once you find the right car you can buy. However, you want buy online and get home delivery in select markets or. By our mine entries express pick up at car max and no matter how you, by your car, comes with a thirty day. Money back guarantee up to fifteen hundred miles, learn more and start shopping at car, MAX Dotcom Car MAX Carbine re imagined. I landfilling my boyfriend and I often lay following these together-
by together I mean sitting next to each other playing individually and not cheating. Sometimes when I open up spelling bee- and I see that you have completed a few words on your own, I feel a little betrayed in sorry, It may have happened again. I have one friend who I will send screenshots from spelling bee of inappropriate words. Then I was get nervous. I sent it to my parents or something like that, me and my dad. We like to play spy together and I wish her out. I it J See K, P, o t Yeah right nice I'm same as earth's sky. The digital puzzles editor for the New York Times. You can try spelling bee and all our games at N Y Times dot com, slash games, Judith,
in road. Her modern love essay about the unusual request that John made near the end of his life, but she says that their relationship began. In an unusual way too? I met John because he was an opera singer and he was a friend of the family and he was a pal with my uncle My uncle was always dragging him to our family occasions and the joke in my family was that my mother thought he was cute and she would always saying you save him for me. which became a little less funny later on. So I met him, in my family, but how we actually start. dating was I was dead. A person named John that person named John was in Europe. I got a postcard saying: meet you at such and such a place at such and such a time and. I did not knowing who it was and it turned out. This John so I suddenly found myself on a date with a person it never even dawned on me wanted to date me and
I was too embarrassed and polite to say what you're kidding Oh that's! Actually, how we met Judith Ever told John, the real story, it seemed like one of the harmless secret set. You sometimes keep in a marriage, and she says it's only fair because he never told her about Amy's ashes. And even though Judith didn't intentionally try to get those ashes confiscated by the ts like her friend Hillary had suggested, it almost happened anyway, unbeknownst to me, even though, add Amy in a cardboard box. I didn't bother to look and so She was actually in a metal container. So by the time I got to England, all of my stuff had been just dumped out by the TSA and and thrown back in and, I suppose they believed John being the kind of fastidious person he was had written. These ashes on Amy's ashes. So I guess they
leave did they weren't going like oh that's suspicious, and they just put her back in soap. Thank God for that Judith did end up carrying out John's last- wish my son Harry John and I carried Amy. We found this particular place through John's nephew; it was literally one of those over the field and through the woods situations I took them with John. Sister, who is ninety years old, and I experience the humiliation of have a ninety year old woman be able to hop a fence to get to this place is compared to me. I had to have people haul me over it. It was a beautiful day. And yes and I made sure that when we got them into this hole that John's nephew had dug, I made sure that their little ash cans touched each other. That was kind of important for me to do.
I felt, and I continue to feel, a great tenderness. I suppose I think to myself. I think how long she waited. I think that he was her true love interesting way. While I was about thirty years younger than John, she was about seventeen or eighteen years older and he had taken care of her when she got sick. She had been married before but I think that he was the person she loved above all else and when we were sitting at dinner I remembered you know it was a beautiful day. It really was beautiful
my son, my very sarcastic sardonic son, who was sixteen at the time he turned to me, and he said you know I can going to be buried with dad so gorgeous here and all I could think was no Henry you're not going to be buried with dad because you're going to find your Amy and I think we all need to Judith says she never saw Johns last request as a betrayal. By think that, with the loves you have through a waste, if you're very, very lucky, you'll have a few and they can give you different things and John gave me children
and he gave me many things that I wouldn't have had otherwise, but he gave her something she wouldn't have had otherwise, and I do believe that there's was a soulmate kind of love. Ours was different and neither was more legitimate than the other Judith says that she does plan to go back to the field where she buried John and Amy. She keeps a video of the place on her phone and she says that soon she'll be ready to start dating again. My son is going away to school and he's desperately frightened that I'm going to be lonely. He keeps asking me, am I going to date? Am I going to get a dog? He says. I know I'm coming back here and they're going to be five golden retrievers in the house, which is a possibility, but I just haven't quite gotten there yet, but I I will and it will be, a very different relationship. The next time around is old.
and crotchety as I am. I have complete confidence that I will find another person to love: that's Judith, Newman she's, a writer and author of two SIRI with love a mother, her autistic son and the kindness of machines, more after the break. I love I often play spelling, be together by together. I boyfriend sitting next to each other playing individually and not cheating. Sometimes when I open up spelling bee- and I see that you have completed a few words on your own, I feel a little betrayed We may have happened again. You I have one friend
who I will send screenshots from spelling bee of inappropriate words. Then I was get nervous. I sent it to my parents or something like that me and my dad. We like a sponge together, and I wish to out that it a c k, p o t, yeah now run nice. I'm same as the sky. The digital puzzles editor for the New York Times. You can try, spelling bee and all our games at N Y Times dot com, slash games, here's Dan Jones editor of the modern love column for the New York Times. Well, it's always so delicate to talk about the death of a loved one and You know most people do it in a way that is
sober and respectful and Judith. Does it not only with humor but constant sense of humor? It's so funny from start start to finish, but us touching, and what I find so refreshing about. That is how it is done. Defies death. Not something that always has to be talked about. So soberly and earnestly It's been said, it's another phase in life and and and Just you know what happens to all of us and their relationship was really, this sort of a Kidding but loving relationship and his and how it was handled is in keeping with that. Their way of relating or so it seemed to me, and here's Marisa Tomei explaining why she chose to read Judith essay because of the
making animal heart that the author has how she has room for the love for everyone, I was in her husband's life, So I'm obsessed with death Modern love is the production of the New York Times and W B you are Boston, NPR station, its produce directed and edited by Caitlin O Keefe. Original scoring and sound design by Matt, Reed Adler's, our executive producer. Jones is the editor of modern love for the New York Times and adviser to the show the aid here for the modern love, podcast was conceived by LISA Tobin. Special thanks to WWW, Simon, on your strength in and merely at the New York Times additional music courtesy Of a p m I mean try provided, see you next week.
Transcript generated on 2022-04-15.