When someone dies unexpectedly and in the prime of life, the natural first response is to ask “what happened?” In Julie’s case, we believe she succumbed to a seizure which was the result of a brain injury she’d sustained during college.
While this may offer us some explanation, it certainly doesn’t answer the other big question: “Why her?”
Knowing Julie, I believe she wouldn’t have wanted us to ask “why her?” She was really more of a “why not me” kind of person. That may not comfort us, but it does reflect who she was. Julie was grateful for it all. She didn’t take life for granted. She truly treasured every blessing along the way.
But don’t take it from me. Here are her own words on the matter, quoted from her blog not long ago. Perhaps you’ll hear her sweet southern voice when you read her words. It’s hard for me not to …
I try not to take a lot for granted. I know life as we know it can be gone in one split-second. It (the accident years ago and subsequent recovery) gave me compassion for other people. Going through that valley, which turned out to be a fairly long, dark one, made me at last (I’m very, very stubborn) seek a relationship, a peace with God that I would not trade for anything in this world.
The Bible says to give thanks in everything (not for everything), which to me means to live with gratitude. So, I try to slow down and not stress, to take delight in the small joys of life. I covet the peace that comes from a grateful heart, and I’m very passionate about giving thanks, about trying to live with a spirit of gratitude.
Julie had always worked hard to craft stories that entertained, and yet communicated grace to her readers. When she and I started working together we talked about her hopes and dreams for her career. We constantly strategized to work through the frustrations and challenges of breaking into a new market. And together we plotted and schemed, and birthed new characters we felt would not only walk and talk and speak the grace she so wholeheartedly believed in, but would help her work break out in a new way. We were both excited about her latest two high concept books and believed she was on her way up.
Julie wrote for her readers. She wrote because she loved to tell stories. And she wrote for her characters, some of whom I believe became as much a part of her as the family she loved so dearly.
She wrote for love, yes, but writing was also Julie’s job and she took it seriously. She wrote as a means to help her faithful husband, Tom, provide for their family. Last year, she helped her daughter Iris have the wedding she wanted. She talked frequently with me about how proud she was of her son Gus's choice to study at Georgia Tech. And once a couple years ago when we sold TWANG, Julie told me she’d promised her son Sam it was his turn, and when her next check arrived he’d finally get that BMX bike he’d been eyeing.
Whether Julie was taking or teaching writing classes, learning how to navigate social media, seeking new and tried & true ways to promote her books – or help her fellow authors promote theirs, Julie always maintained a grateful perspective on life, love, her craft, and her faith.
She signed her letters and emails “Truly, Julie.” And that’s so indicative of who she was. She was as earnest as her characters, as earthy as the southern red clay she loved so dearly, and as heaven-bound as the stories by which we now have to remember her.
Truly … Julie was a joy to work with. Her attitude made me a more grateful person, and her gracious, charming spirit made my world a better place.
She will be deeply missed.
I'm glad you've stopped by my website for a visit. The majority of my work is spent alone, bent over a keyboard, so I look forward to talking books with readers. Please feel free to send me an email. I try to respond to every single one.
Hopefully this will give you a glimpse into my life and my books. If you’re interested in what I’m currently working on, or my day-to-day writing life, click on Peek Over My Shoulder.
You can also find out about upcoming appearances and recent releases by clicking on Events.
One of my greatest desires as a writer is to make a difference on this planet, and you'll find that one of my favorite themes is how God can redeem the seemingly unredeemable. I have a lot of personal experience with that. I grew up in what Flannery O'Connor called the "Christ-haunted South," and though my folks took me to church every time the doors were open, I did not find meaning or a connection there. And if I'd been spared certaincrises during my college career,Imight still be walking in darkness. I believe it's a powerful thing to have turned to God after a period of following othergods, because I truly know what it feels like to be dead, and now to bealive.
We've got enough in this world to bring us down and my desire is to tell stories laced with the light I discovered; that transcendant, supernatural, seemingly irrational hope that yanked me up out of the dark pit of despair.
Donald Maass - "Writing the Breakout Novel"