In the Arms of the Angels
On August 27, 2006 my beautiful and brilliant son, Joseph J. Parnell died. He was 33-years-old, and I will never be the same again. It is so ironic that I’ve worked so hard to save lives, but I could not save my own child.
I wanted something good to come out of this horrific tragedy, so I started the Joseph J. Parnell Memorial Spay and Neuter Fund, which was noted in his obituary in our local newspaper. There are no words to tell you how overwhelmed I was by the immediate and tremendous response.
It was the worst time of my life, but the gifts in memory of my Joe made me realize that Joe can still save many lives. Because I tend to be obsessive about something I love, I will work the rest of my life to keep this fund going so that Joe’s life will make a difference.
One of my most vivid memories of Joe was when he was 18-years- old. I went into his room to wake him and found him sound asleep with a baby deer dozing beside him. The deer had been injured and Joe found him on the side of the road. It was a beautiful moment; it never occurred to Joe that it was unusual to do this — it was just the way he was.
In the years that have passed since he left us, his legacy lives on in his fund and the generous gifts you have given in his memory. Hundreds of animals have been spayed and neutered fulfilling my dream of having the funds to make sure they are altered prior to adoption – something we struggled with trying to accomplish before Joe’s Fund came into being. I cry with sadness over his loss and with joy for his ability to live on every time I use his account to help end the cycle of unwanted litters.
The grief in my heart was so overwhelming that, when I started Joe’s Fund, I wasn’t as focused as I should have been. I do believe that Joe is always with me, and in the months following his death, I realized that this fund should be not only about spaying and neutering, but one that would help animals needing emergency care, something that we face so very often here at the Hillside SPCA. There was a time when we had to say, “No, we cannot help.” when faced with an expensive health emergency for an animal — sometimes many animals — that needed a second chance because we just could not afford the cost. Now, thanks to the support you give to Joe’s Fund, we can say, “YES!, we CAN help!” And we do.
Joe will always be alive in my heart and my family’s, but you will keep him alive to end the tragedy of being unwanted, unloved, ill, neglected, and abused because there are too many, and too many “thrown away”.. From all the animals Joe has already saved because of your generosity, and all the animals his fund will save, I send you love and gratitude, forever.
~ Barbara A. Umlauf, Mother of Joseph J. Parnell and Manager of Hillside SPCA