I don’t mean in 1776. Rather, just last week. Where were you and what were you doing? Almost everyone I know looks forward to the Fourth of July – especially this year since it was a three-day weekend. In Atlanta the weather was great; cool in the morning and low humidity in the afternoon. It was a perfect day for the common rituals of barbequing, spending time outdoors with family and friends, and traveling.
But July 4th is actually just a date. The true essence of the holiday is to celebrate America’s independence from Great Britain. Seeking independence, or trying to maintain independence, can bring about struggle and strife. The pilgrims had to journey long distances in small boats across vast oceans for freedom. They then had to face natives and engage in a battle against the Red Coats.
Our seniors and veterans define independence altogether differently. Each day is a struggle to maintain independence when losing eyesight, hearing, or the ability to walk or drive. When caring for a loved one whose health is declining, that person will try very hard to maintain independence. This can bring discord to the family. Battles may ensue.
Less than 100 years after the Declaration of Independence was signed, April 12, 1861, the Civil War began dividing a nation – both sides fighting for independent rights (the Union to free the slaves and make them independent and the Confederate to be independent from government scrutiny). Georgia was the fifth state to secede from the Union on January 19, 1861, and heavily supported the Confederate cause. I spent July 6, 2014 visiting the Historic Oakland Cemetery in Atlanta, Georgia which offers tours highlighting the notable events shaping Atlanta. Thousands of Confederate soldiers are buried there, as well as 16 Union soldiers. Visiting the cemetery was a reminder of all of the independence we have today because of the struggles our forefathers were willing to forge.
But, not to get lost in the remembrance alone, I also spent July 6, 2014 celebrating Independence Day listening to the 116th National Guard Band play patriotic music. Each military branch has a band, although they are becoming smaller due to budgetary constraints. Before long, we may only have memories of military bands playing for citizen celebration and morale.
Remember as you begin to “help” your loved ones who may be losing the battle of personal independence, that their lives and accomplishments are to be remembered and celebrated. Take a moment to recognize the strain but celebrate the person behind the cause. When the battles are over and the memory is all that remains, make sure it is one you can celebrate with joy.
Victoria L. Collier, CELA, Elder Care Attorney, Co-Founder of Lawyers for Wartime Veterans and Lawyers with Purpose, Veteran, author of 47 Secret Veterans Benefits for Seniors and most recent book, Paying for Long Term Care: Financial Help for Wartime Veterans: The VA Aid & Attendance Benefit.