Sunday was warm and sunny that July day in 1972. Frank had worked all night at his security job and he came home and changed and set out again to go to a four wheel drive rally with his buddies. He took the truck so I did not have any transportation of my own.
I called my home teacher and asked if he could pick up me and the kids so that we could go to Sunday School meeting. My neighbor came over and she said her daughter wanted to go to Church with us. So she went home to get her ready. I was sitting in the living room so that I could see the street. A car pulled up into the driveway and my Bishop got out of the car along with another man. I went out to the driveway to meet them, he introduced this other man as a County Coroner and he was a member of our Church. The fact that he was a coroner never fazed me. But that he was a member of our Church. Then right there in the driveway the Bishop told me there had been an accident and that Frank had been killed. Just like that. No ifs, ands or buts about it. Frank was dead. Just then my home teacher pulled up. The Bishop went down to his car and told him and he left. Then the Bishop said he had to get back to the Ward and start Sunday School he told me he would send his wife to be with me.
I didn’t know what to do. My neighbor came over with her daughter and I told her what had happened. She gathered up David and Pattie and took them to her house. I was all alone. I just sat there. What was I supposed to do? What was the protocol? How was I supposed to act? Then the Bishop’s wife came.
“What can I do for you?”
“I don’t know”.
“I guess we should call Frank’s parents in Gardner, Montana. ”
I found the phone number. She tried to dial it. She couldn’t get it right. I didn’t want to talk to them but she couldn’t get it right. I took over the call. It rang through. No caller ID in those days. You just answered the phone. Frank’s Mom answered. I don’t remember what I said but I somehow got out that Frank had been killed in an automobile accident. She started to scream. Frank’s Dad came on the line.
I tried to tell him what I knew but I realized that I didn’t know hardly any details. Just that he had been killed.
Well that was over. I called my parents. My Dad said he would call me back. I sat there, now what do I do? I felt like my life had just been put on hold. We sat around and looked at each other. My kids were gone. I didn’t know what to do. The bishops wife was nice but I didn’t know her very well. I kind of expected a lot of church members to come by after Sunday School. But no one came. My home teacher came back and my visiting teaching partner. I didn’t cry, I was numb.
I thought “I need to make arrangements for a funeral. How do I do that?” I was 26 years old. What do I know about these things.? Finally my Dad called back and said they were on their way. It was a long drive from Cedar City, Utah to Marysville, Washington. Frank’s Dad called back and asked when I wanted them to come. I didn’t know what to tell him. I didn’t know what they could do. Looking back I think I was not very nice and considerate to them and their feelings. They had just lost their only son. My heart felt cold as steel.
Somehow I made it through the day. It was getting to be bed time so I sent everyone away.
“ I’m all right. I’ll be alright. Don’t worry about me.”
I went to bed. I couldn’t fall asleep. Then the dogs. One of the dogs in the neighborhood was in heat. We had a big black lab that was tied up in the back. I did not like that dog. I do not like dogs very much and this dog did not make it any easier. All around the house there was barking. That’s all I could hear, Barking, Barking, Barking. I could not get to sleep. Finally I called the police.
“Could they do anything about the dogs? ”
I guess I must have slept some, it is hard to say.
Next morning one of the Relief Society presidency came over. The President was out of town. This sister was about my age she knew just about as much about arranging a funeral as I did.
“What can I do for you?”
“I don’t know”
She took me down to the Social Security office, she said I should apply for survivor benefits. They looked at me like I was crazy. I didn’t know that it could have waited.
Trying to remember the whole chain of events is hard, some things stand out and some are lost. I don’t know that it is so important to have everything in perfect order only that the events are as true as possible.
I think my parents arrived later that day on Monday. They had driven all night. They stopped in Salt Lake at my sister Kathryn’s house and her husband Jim came with Mom and Dad. Jim was an accountant and he offered to come and help me with my financial affairs. That night I slept. I think just having my parents there was such a relief.
Somehow we made the arrangements for the funeral. Frank’s injuries were mostly to his head. The truck had rolled and even though he had his seat belt on they had taken the roof off the top and as the truck rolled, his head had been crushed. The funeral director told me that it would be better if I did not see his body. We should have a closed casket. We made arrangements to have Frank buried in Willamette National Cemetery, a military cemetery near Portland, Oregon. The VFW would provide a military tribute. Frank had served in Vietnam and had been wounded. I thought maybe his parents would like him close to them but his Dad said no the cemetery in Gardner was just rock pile. He was happy with the one in Oregon.
We arranged for the funeral to be on Friday and the burial to be on Saturday because the drive to Portland was several hours away. There was no viewing so we just showed up at the church for the funeral. I had asked someone to sing “Oh My Father” and the Bishop talked and someone else I don’t remember. When I walked into the church it was the first time I had seen the casket. It was draped in a flag. Frank’s Mother wept the whole time. I was kind of annoyed with her. I think I have many things to seek their forgiveness for when I meet them again on the other side. Maybe they can see the whole picture now and have forgiven me.
After the funeral, I thought something is missing. No one really talked about Frank. I didn’t realize that I needed to make that clear. Or I needed to assign that to someone. I think most of the problem was that we had only been married exactly three years when he died. We had only lived in our house in Marysville two years. We didn’t know very many people and the church members in our ward did not know Frank because he did not come to church. Most of them knew me but not him. There was no one to speak for him. I should have asked his parents or his sister if they wanted to say something but I didn’t.
After the funeral the Relief Society provided a lunch for us but his parents would not come. I thought this was something everyone did. That’s what I had grown up with. His parents were not familiar with Mormon culture. I think they were uncomfortable. I was not very sensitive to their feelings.
One of Franks friends asked me if I wanted them to take care of the dog for a few days I told them they could have it. I didn’t want the stupid thing.
The next day was Saturday and we all made our way to Portland to the cemetery. I talked to Dad about the lack of mention of Frank and his life at the funeral. He said that he would say something at the graveside. The mortician had arranged for the local VFW to do a military tribute. They had an honor guard and played a record of taps and folded up the flag and gave it to me. So surreal. I was numb.
We went back to Marysville and then what. My brother-in-law, Jim had gone through our finances and did what he could to help; then he went home. Dad took him to the airport in Seattle.
One morning I think my Dad was in the shower and my little 3 year old David came running into my room. All excited.
“Frank home?” “Frank home?”
“No honey Franks not home, he is not coming home.”
David did not understand. I guess I didn’t realize he even missed him. Pattie was only 10 months old. She would never remember her Dad. David today says that he thinks he has some memories of his Dad, but they are very fleeting.
I had nothing to keep me in Washington. Although I really loved our little house and I had made friends with a couple that lived just behind us. Our kids were about the same age and I spent a lot of time with them when Frank was away in the evenings. But my home was in Cedar City, Utah. I wanted to go back to Utah and get my life back on track. I felt disconnected from the Church. Frank would not come with me to meetings and he was not supportive when I had been asked to teach primary. I felt that I needed to be back in an environment I was used to. I was the wild child ready to come home and beg for a place at my parents table.
The Ward organized a crew to come and load up my belongings in a U-Haul trailer that Me and Dad would drive back to Utah. Mother took David and Pattie back on the plane. My neighbors David and Kay took me and their kids and David to Seattle to the Zoo. We left Mom and Dad with Pattie and with the help of the ward they packed up my house. When we got back that evening the house was bare. It really hit me. My life would forever be altered. There was no turning back.
We took Mom to the airport and Dad and I headed for Utah. We soon realized that the trailer we were haling was not loaded very well and we had a hard time going over 50 miles an hour. It took us two and a half days to get to Salt Lake. We drove day and night. When they packed they had not left out any clean clothes for me. We stopped at Kathryn’s house and I was able to have a shower and Kathy washed my clothes for me. I was glad to see my kids again. Then we all headed to Cedar City another good 4 hour drive because the trailer would sway and pull at the car.
Finally we arrived and a new life began. I had left behind the first home I had as a married woman. I had left behind a husband. My parents made me leave behind my beautiful cat that Frank and I had as a kitten that we brought from Gardner when we first traveled to Washington. “Clean sweep” my Mother said. I felt I was obligated to bow to their council. It took me quite awhile to find my own voice again. But for now I was grateful to them for their kindness and willingness to take me in along with my kids. I think about that time of my life and I shake my head and wonder what was I thinking. I was young. I guess I did the best I could.