Memorial Day

Holiday. Today is a day to remember those who gave and lost for their country. For some of us that is a distant thought—those too young to have heard the stories of Pearl Harbor. Those who have not had a veteran in their lineage for generations. For them, we use sensory cues to help them remember, help them glimpse what sacrifice was made. The cues are flags, the colors of red, white & blue, patriotic music, historic programming, and parades. All sensory cues that bring the individual to a memory and a memorial.

For myself, I carry the stories of veterans’ wives who remembered Pearl Harbor and recounted them with every patriotic holiday activity. The vivid recollection of the task they were doing when they heard the news. The prevalent theme of how he was never the same when he came home. Tales that make you stop and take a deep breathe. Tales that bring gratitude that your father was safely stationed in the Pacific, when so few in the Pacific were safe.

Memories of his stern rebuttal to my meandering conversation about Japan’s desire to surrender: “The Pacific ocean is lined with men killed by the Japanese–never question the second bomb.” These stories, the colors, the sounds, the graphic recollection of the widows—have given me the sensibility to recognize the amount and value of the sacrifice of our armed forces throughout our nation’s history.

Memorial Day was always my favorite holiday because it came with a parade but no fireworks in Dundalk MD. It was the beginning of summer. I loved the colors and sounds of the Memorial Day parade. I loved them at the Fourth of July parade as well, but on those occasions my family bartered—parade only if I went to the fireworks. I agreed and regretted many Independence Day evenings where the sound of the after-shock for the fireworks had me hiding in the car with the windows rolled up. The beauty and fun of the morning parade was long gone, all I felt and heard was Danger. Much like an individual with Alzheimer’s, I was overcome by environmental stress that was uniquely mine. No one else felt as frightened. As an adult I realized that a part of that equation was that we parked directly under the fireworks—the noisiest place to be. I still don’t like loud noises.

So today, we remember, as we do with each holiday. Perhaps today’s memories can enlighten us as we work with or encounter individuals who are losing their own memory. Work to uncover what color their parades and their fireworks were and promote the ones that bring a smile.

Author: Cate
Passionate about dementia care and quality of life throughout the last days of life----sums up Cate McCarty, Dr. Cate, Dementia Coach. With close to forty years of long-term care experience in nursing and recreation, a Master's in Thanatology and a PhD in Aging Studies, Dr. Cate seizes every opportunity to translate research into quality of life for individuals with dementia and all of us who have the honor to "rub elbows" with them.

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