Delia Ephron and her late sister, writer-director Nora Ephron, co-wrote the screenplay for “You’ve Got Mail,” the sweet tale of two people falling in love over email — and the author’s real-life romance could have been pulled straight from the classic ‘90s film.
In Monday’s episode of the “Making Space with Hoda Kotb” podcast, Delia Ephron, 77, explained how her late sister unknowingly “had a hand” in setting her up with her husband, Peter, whom she fell “head over heels” in love with via email.
Their love story came about in an unlikely way, and followed a series of tragedies in her life. In 2015, three years after her sister died from complications of leukemia, Ephron’s husband of more than three decades, Jerry Kass, also died of cancer.
Ephron wrote an essay about grieving her husband in The New York Times, and not long after, someone very unexpected reached out to her — a psychiatrist named Peter Rutter whom she had been fixed up with as a teenager by none other than her late sister.
“We still can’t agree on how many dates we had because I don’t remember it at all; but I think it was two dates, but it might have been three. Fifty-four years before, when I was 18 years old, and my sister Nora had fixed us up,” Ephron said. “So I got this very, very charming email from Peter, who was a psychiatrist, a Jungian analyst living in the Bay Area. And he said, ‘You know, we had we had a couple of dates. It’s just the most — was the most charming note. It was lovely. … So I wrote him back.”
Before long, Ephron said she had “completely fallen in love over email.”
“It was amazing, and we began talking on the phone for hours,” she said.
She and Peter eventually met in person, and Ephron said she could feel her late husband’s presence during their conversations.
“I remember him being in the kitchen and thinking that Jerry was there in the kitchen with us. You know, that I wasn’t alone with Peter, that he was there,” she said.
The couple's romance continued to happily blossom until one day when Ephron faced devastating news: She was diagnosed with an aggressive type of leukemia.
“I don’t even know if your brain is working then. … I just was stunned,” Ephron said. “I called Peter, and he said, ‘I’ll fly in tonight.’”
As they both reeled from the news, they made a momentous decision.
“I’m making French toast, and I’m thinking about, you know, I’m checking into the hospital Tuesday. … And he just, like, popped up out of the chair and said, ‘Will you marry me?’ And I said, yes,” Ephron recalled.
“Then we went on Monday — we went and got a license and we bought a ring. And on Tuesday I checked into the hospital, and on Thursday I had my first chemotherapy. And on Saturday we got married,” she said. “We had a very few friends come to the dining room on the 14th floor. And my friend Jessie presided. And we got married.”
Ephron is out with a new memoir, “Left on Tenth: A Second Chance at Life,” which chronicles how she has navigated her personal tragedies and serious illness while also striking up an unexpected romance.
Reflecting on the twists and turns of the last few years, Ephron said she thinks about the role of fate in her life — and the role her late sister had in bringing her and Peter together.
“Peter says we were not meant to be together when we were young,” she said. “And that we met when we did. For some, we were — were meant to meet."
“And I believe that’s true, too,” she said. “But there’s no question I feel like (Nora) had a hand in it.”