Memorial Day is a day set aside for us to remember and honor those who have died while serving in our country’s armed forces. The holiday was initially observed on May 30 from 1868 until 1970, when it was moved to the last Monday in May. While the memorializing elements of this holiday are frequently lost in the onset of the summer vacation season, many older Americans still observe the holiday more traditionally. And this year’s pandemic has made the opening of vacation season sluggish at best.
Lesser-known as Decoration Day, many people observe this holiday by wearing poppies and placing flags on graves in military cemeteries across the country. Parades and special programs are traditionally held to honor veterans and remember the ultimate sacrifice they made while serving our country.
If your aging family member knows veterans who died in service to our country, perhaps you could visit their grave to place patriotic flowers or a flag. If your loved one is homebound, ask about memories of family members who were in the military. Look at photos and talk about those times. You might learn something surprising!
Perhaps your mom or dad didn’t have family members or friends who served during wartime. They probably have powerful memories about pivotal military moments such as Pearl Harbor, D-Day, or Desert Storm. If it is possible and not painful, ask if they would share those memories with you. If they resist or seem uncomfortable about talking of such memories, then change the subject and leave it alone. Not everyone’s remembrances are pleasant when related to military action.
Betsy’s family knew military service well. Her maternal grandfather was an infantryman during The Great War, and all four of his children served in either World War II or the Korean War. Her mother joined the Marines and served stateside so “another man could go and fight” while her father joined the Army and saw action in southern Europe and Northern Africa. He was always reluctant to discuss what he witnessed while there.
The important consideration for you as a family caregiver is that Memorial Day is intended to honor and remember sacrificial service. Consider how you can best do this with those you care for. There probably won’t be lots of parades and local gatherings this year, but the Atlanta Journal-Constitution shares seven ways to celebrate at home here. If nothing else works, enjoy the warm weather and promise of summer just around the bend.
Betsy and I hope you’ll join us this week here at Heart of the Caregiver and share your heart about Memorial Day memories.