My mom flew to Texas with my dad that night. A couple days later, my older sister and two older brothers joined with her. Spending all day and night at a hospital watching my dad and other patients suffer from burns was not a place for an eight-year old kid.
My mom did her best to try and keep things as normal as possible for me, so she made arrangements for me to stay in Idaho with a very kind family from the Episcopal church at a nearby city. The wife was very pregnant and she had been having complications with the pregnancy. I stayed with them for only about a week due to the arrival of the new baby. Other arrangements had to be made for me to stay with another family.
My mom got a phone call from a woman that heard the news of my dad’s accident. Sandy McCoy was her name and she wanted to help by taking me in. Sandy had known my dad from previous visits he had with the McCoy family. She welcomed me into their family right away and her children accepted me too. They included me in everything they did, even the daily chores, which I didn’t mind, at least most of the time. It made me feel part of the family. A little space was made for me in the corner of Kellie’s room and I even had enough room for a few of my favorite toys.
I spent Christmas of 1974 with the McCoy’s. That Christmas morning, I woke up to my very own, handmade Raggedy Ann and Andy dolls under the tree for me. It was a Christmas I will never forget.
Shortly after the turn of the new year in 1975, my brothers returned to Idaho after spending several weeks in Texas with Mom and Dad. They took me into the little bedroom the McCoy family had created for me upstairs. David and Steve were young men with an adult responsibility. It fell upon their teenage shoulders to tell me that our dad had died. I still remember sitting on the edge of the bed and hearing the words, “Dad’s in Heaven now”. I don’t remember much after that moment, but the emotion of the day still fills my eyes with tears.
After spending six weeks in the hospital from the third degree burns over 80% of his body, Dad died on January 2, 1975. He was buried in the church cemetery on the Reservation with the people he loved and gave his life serving.
I kept going to church, but grudgingly. “How could a God who loved my father, a man of God, take my father away?” I demanded. It was a question that festered in my mind and heart as I grew up and grew in my resentment toward the God of my father.