Do you have plans for the fourth? Last year, with our kids away for the holiday, my husband and I visited an elderly uncle who had valiantly fought cancer through repeated rounds of chemotherapy. Too weak to join his daughters and grandchildren for their 4th of July plans, we found him napping in his recliner facing a snowy television, his frail body nestled comfortably under an afghan. Awakened gently by his wife, his blue eyes sparkled at our request to borrow his grill to prepare a steak dinner for all of us later in the day. While we chatted, my husband tinkered with his television to eliminate the snow, and then labeled his remote controls, hoping to dampen the confusion created by digital converters. I still don’t know how ours work! Our uncle resumed his nap as we quietly repaired the front door bell that hadn’t rung when we arrived, and replaced the broken latch on his back door with a new one found at the local hardware store.
After all these years, I still find it difficult to know what to do when someone you love approaches the end of their life. Is it enough to give an older person a sliver of your time, an opportunity to reminisce about the past, or to join in a holiday celebration? Why would someone who is dying want to celebrate the 4th of July? The Irish in me says, “Why not?” Our uncle was past the point where a few sparklers would brighten his day, and a full family party would have been overwhelming; but he smiled as the smell of steak sizzling on the grill wafted through his screen door into the TV room, and I like to think that it evoked in him fond memories of other parties with our family.
Last fall I attended his funeral, and as the soldiers folded his flag and saluted this veteran’s life, I thought back to his fourth, glad to have given him one last time to celebrate the birth of his country. What are some of your favorite memories of celebrating the fourth with your family?
photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/puliarfanita/
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