Remembering Yarnell: Mother of fallen hotshot slowly moving past her only son's death

PRESCOTT, AZ - For months after her son died, Marcia McKee struggled to get out of bed, but one year after Grant McKee’s death she turned her life around with a little help from him.

“If I’m out and see other parents with kids, it’s hard knowing I’ll never see him or I’ll never be called grandma,” McKee says.

The time she had with her only son ended too soon and now she only has memories.

“He was not only my son but my best friend,” she said.

Now she is left with pictures and keepsakes of her only son but it is nothing compared to the memories they could have had if it wasn’t for one year ago when he perished with 18 other Hotshots in the Yarnell Hill fire.

The last recording she has of him is a message he left her the morning before he died. It says, “Hi mom, it’s Grant, I hope you’re having a good day.”

“I remember me telling him to be careful and him telling me, ‘Mom, what are the chances of me dying? Zero to none.’”

McKee says that for the first three months after his death, she couldn’t get out of bed or stop crying but then she had an idea. She decided to surround herself with memories of Grant in her apartment.

Around every corner and on every wall and shelf in her two-bedroom apartment there is a picture of Grant. She even got a tattoo of her only son.

“I have pictures of him everywhere, in my house and in my car but when I’m not in my car I can’t see him so I [got a tattoo] so he would always be with me,” McKee says.

These memories are the only thing that McKee says is pushing her forward.

She says that Grant wanted to be a firefighter since he was little.

His mom says he was an Orange County boy with a small town heart and two months before he died, he joined the Granite Mountain Hotshots to be with his cousin, Robert.

“I’m glad that they have each other and are together but that’s been really hard not to just lose one but two,” she said.

McKee says she’s trying to let go of her anger toward her son’s death and live a life that would make him proud.

“He keeps me going and I know he won’t rest in peace unless he knows I’m okay.”

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