Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Death and Pain and other inevitables

My uncle, Virgil Parnell, passed away this week. There is nothing like a funeral to get you thinking about mortality.

When I was a kid, JuJu (his nickname) was a larger than life figure, probably because my mom had grown up looking up to him and passed a bit of that hero worship down to us girls. When she was a kid, he was off in the Korean War, being a soldier. She told us a bit of her childhood and he would visit, riding on an Indian motorcycle or driving some new car and it always impressed her, a simple girl growing up in the mountains of Pennsylvania.

I remember one of his visits when he took me shopping and bought me this disembodied head (a Barbie kind of thing with hair I could style and pretend make-up....) and some plastic money.

Later, he came and picked up our little family and took us on the longest car ride I had ever been on at the time. He had this shiny brown and tan Bronco and I had never even been in a truck. He got us our first McDonald's and took us to his home by Lake Erie. I remember being awed by the Lake. It seemed to be the biggest thing in the world...

Uncle JuJu played the hero quite a bit for my childhood. He came one Christmas and mom had only gotten me this big blue coat while my sister got toys. Uncle JuJu came back and gave me a radio with a tape deck. I thought that was so cool (I still have the antiquated thing in my attic...) and later in life he paid for my drivers ed classes. I remember sitting on his lap in his recliner and watching movies and feeling so safe... He was big and strong and seemed at the time to be some scary constant that was larger than life.

Like I said, nothing like a funeral to have you consider mortality.

In my upcoming release, later this month, Sleeping Garden, written under my pseudonym Virginia Ashley, the characters have to deal with death and mortality. It is a YA Paranormal that starts out with the main characters mother passing away suddenly after being very healthy. She is left to try to go on without her mother there... something she never imagined. Dealing with grief is something that everyone deals with in their own way and Olivia's way is probably neither better nor worse than anyone's in those circumstances.

On the reverse side of things, Colin, one of the lead guys in Olivia's life, has been sick his whole life and dealt daily with the knowledge that he will probably not live to see adulthood. This has made him a bit of a morbid character and, when confronted with Olivia and her new grief, he is forced to reevaluate how his perspective of things are hampering each day he is gifted with.

Dealing with death and the knowledge that all life ends isn't easy for even adults. When coping with these topics as a kid, it is even harder since most of the time they don't have the words to even express what they are going through. Somehow, losing someone, brings us back to memories, faded and stuffed into dusty boxes in the backs of our minds, and makes us look at who they were and who we may have wished they could have been.

Probably editing a book about death while mourning was bound to make me think about it more than I would have otherwise but in a way, it also helped me work through what I was feeling on the topic.

Rest in Peace, Uncle JuJu. Semper Fi. Once a Marine, Always a Marine.


  1. My grandfather served in Korea too. Like JuJu, he was larger than life. Men like that are hard to find so we're lucky we had them in our lives.
    I'm sorry for your loss but so glad you had such a good man in your life.

  2. Thanks! He was a really great guy. He had one of those senses of humor... Always pulling pranks and loving to laugh. I was usually torn between being scared of him and loving him. LOL. Glad you had your grandfather, too. People like that are irreplaceable. :) Thanks, Lisa