Memorial Day has become, to many Americans, a welcome long weekend from work or school, a reason for a BBQ with friends, time for a trip to the beach – – the unofficial start of summer. For more, including many of our senior loved ones, Memorial Day is first a day of remembrance for those who have given their lives in service to America.
Remembering those who have died serving America is especially personal to many seniors (and those of all ages), for whom those numbers include grandparents, parents, siblings, children, grandchildren and close friends from over the years. Memorial Day can be, for them, a sacred day to recall the ultimate service given by family.
Senior loved ones who want their Memorial Day to be one of remembrance may need our help in doing so. Sharing stories is a key part of remembering for many, which means patient, loving ears and hearts to listen – – not just to their words but to the feeling accompanying those words. We can help our elders by simply bringing our ears and hearts to listen.
Thinking and talking about family members and friends who are no longer around can be a very emotional time, especially for older and elderly adults who have so many to remember. Memorial Day, with its call for remembrance of SO many at one time, can be overwhelming. Being someone on whom our senior loved ones can lean for support can be a real act of love, especially when we are also remembering those important to us who are among the fallen.
Don’t let outward appearances by senior loved ones fool you. They may host or join the family for a picnic, welcoming the chance to make new memories with children and grandchildren, while keeping their remembrance and the pain out of sight. Give them a chance to let you share in their Memorial Day by asking to hear their stories and watching for signs of hidden emotion. Be one on whom they can lean for support.
Don’t carry the emotions of elder generations alone. Encourage others, especially younger family members, to join you for at least some of the stories. The story tellers will feel the love of those who care enough to listen and will appreciate that their stories of beloved heroes will carry on when they themselves are no longer around to keep the memories alive.
Let’s never forget why there is a Memorial Day, even if we also use it to celebrate the start of summer!