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4th of July Traditions

Written by Birttni Peterson, RN
Resource Nurse, Empira

There is no doubt, that for many people, Independence Day is one of the most looked forward to days of the summer. What’s not to love? Time spent with family and friends, fireworks, tasty food, bonfires, and if we are lucky, as Minnesotans, nice weather. I’m pretty sure that most people understand the symbolism of the fireworks, like it says in the Star-Spangled Banner: And the rocket’s red glare, the bombs bursting in air. But for many people the 4th of July is like many other holidays; a perfect reason to get together and celebrate with family. Many of those families have traditions and unfortunately with this COVID virus right now most will not be able to celebrate as they would like.

Vintage American Flag With Sparklers And Smoke On Rustic Wooden Background - Independence Day Celebration ConceptWhat is the reason we celebrate with fireworks, parades, and red white and blue on the 4th day of July? Well, here’s a brief history on it.

The Revolutionary War began in 1775 and ended in 1783. The cause of this war was due to growing tension between Great Britain’s 13 colonies and the Colonial Government. On July 2nd of 1776, there was a vote to gain their Independence, it wasn’t until two days later that representatives from the 13 colonies and Continental Congress officially adopted the Declaration of Independence.

“Fun fact, John Adams thought that July 2nd would be the date that Americans would celebrate their independence.”

Now, I’m not much of a history buff… but do you know who is? Our good friend Andy Griffith.

A family tradition of mine is adventuring to my Grandparent’s house in Deerwood Minnesota. We would attend the Crosby-Ironton parade during the day. Our parade spot was right across from a Dairy Queen, so of course we always bought a treat before the parade started… even if it was only 10 o’clock in the morning. The parades have been getting shorter and shorter each year, but average to be a little over an hour. Which for a kid looking to fill her bag with candy, it wasn’t long enough. We would then make the drive home to grill hamburgers and hot dogs for lunch and if my parents were lucky, us kids would let them take a nap before our evening festivities. We would finish our 4th of July day off by being mesmerized by fireworks in the evening. What are your family traditions for Independence Day?

Like I said earlier, the 4th of July, 2020, for most Americans, is going to be celebrated differently this year. Those most affected are the residents of long term care facilities. A lack of togetherness with their families will only be amplified during this holiday. Although recently the MN Department of Health has put out guidance for long term care facilities to have outdoor visitations, it just won’t be the same.

But there are a few other ways that you can celebrate with your loved ones this 4th of July.

Bring the tradition to them. Since visitors are not allowed in nursing communities and we don’t know how the outdoor visitations will work, bringing the tradition to them may be a bit more difficult this year. A way you can still celebrate with your loved one is by decorating the outside of their window with an American Flag, window decals, and/or flowers.

Cute American Kids watching Fourth of July ParadeCall and Reminisce. If you aren’t able to carry out your normal family traditions, call and reminisce about what you have done in the years past. Take it one step further by writing down your 4th of July memories and make it into a keepsake for you and your loved one(s).

Just remember that the biggest thing for people facing tough times, especially around holidays, is that they know you are here for them and that they are cared for.

Firework and bokeh lights at night in the colors of the flag from the united states of america (blue, white and red)Resources
https://www.history.com/topics/american-revolution/american-revolution-history
https://www.timeanddate.com/holidays/us/independence-day

Click to access ltcoutdoor.pdf

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Memorial Day – Remember to Remember

Written By Heather Johnson, RN
Resource Nurse, Empira

Think about what Memorial Day means to you.

Does it bring up childhood memories of a long weekend with family and friends?

Memorial Day is known to many of us as the unofficial start to summer. You may also know it as:

  • Ear-marking the final days of the school year
  • The start of the camping season and warmer weather
  • The first bonfires of the year
  • Celebrations at the lake
  • Mattress sales
  • Picnics galore
  • Large BBQs
  • Well attended parades
  • A paid day off of work
  • Brilliant fireworks
  • Family traditions, reunions and celebrations

Do any of your memories and plans include decorating gravesites and paying respect?

Do you know the history of Memorial Day and the significance in our American history?

Memorial Day is so much more than an extended weekend.

Here is a little bit of history.

By the late 1860’s and with death tolls rising from the American Civil War, Americans began holding springtime tributes to the fallen military heroes by decorating the soldiers’ graves with flowers and memorabilia and reciting poems and prayers. The first such memorial is believed to have originated in Charleston, South Carolina, and was coordinated by freed slaves.

Decoration Day, now known to us as Memorial Day, was first proclaimed by General John Logan on May 5th, 1868. A solemn day of reflection and respect. He recognized the need to honor the more than 620,000 soldiers who died during the American Civil War. He chose May 30th as the declared day because it was not an anniversary date to any particular battle. Some historians believe the date was selected to ensure that flowers across the country would be in full bloom.

Arlington National Cemetery

The Proclamation reads:

“The 30th day of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village, and hamlet churchyard in the land. In this observance no form or ceremony is prescribed, but posts and comrades will in their own way arrange such fitting services and testimonials of respect as circumstances may permit.”

General Order No. 11

For more than 50 years, the holiday was used to commemorate those killed just in the Civil War, not in any other American conflict. It wasn’t until America’s entry into World War I that the tradition was expanded to include those killed in all wars.

Memorial Day was not even officially recognized nationwide until the 1970s

In 1968, Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act which moved Memorial Day from May 30th to the last Monday of May. Making it a three-day weekend for federal employees and in this same law also declared Memorial Day a federal holiday which went into effect in 1971. Many argue that in making Memorial Day a three-day weekend, it commercialized the day and made it less significant and easier for Americans to treat the weekend as more of a celebration and in return losing its significance.

Now, I don’t believe there is anything wrong with this type of celebration. To be honest almost everyone likes a good time. Remember our freedom does bring us life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. But for those who were forged into adults on the anvil of war or those who lost dear friends and faithful comrades or those who have a personal connection we can’t help but to having a slightly more respectful attitude about the sacrifices that produce our safety and liberty. Being able to live in freedom is an incredible stroke of good fortune, but the freedom itself exists only because hundreds of thousands of our service members perished for it.

So while none of us should ever dodge a chance to take a break, spend some time with family and overeat a bit, we should also remember why we have the freedom to do it, even if it’s just on this single day at the end of May.

So what can we all do for those we serve in our communities?

Start by reflecting on the history of Decoration Day/Memorial Day and how that history affects those who serve, and have served our country. Here are some other ideas:

  • Share the history with the younger generation.
  • Take time on this day to honor the men and women who gave their lives in service to our country.
  • Reflect on how the memories of the fallen impact those in our communities.
  • Find meaningful ways to bring that history, honor, and respect into your communities.
  • Reach out to your local Veteran’s groups.
  • Personally, take part in Memorial Day.
  • Pause and pay your respects.

Show the world that this day has not lost its reverent meaning.

A simple gesture is to wear a red poppy, a tradition that began with a World War I poem written in 1915 in which the author gave voice to the soldiers who had been killed in battle and lay buried beneath the poppy-covered fields.

Red Poppies in Flanders Fields

“In Flanders Fields” by John McCrae

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago,
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

In memory, with reflection, of my Great Uncle Pfc. Henry Mattson

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Why I Don’t Hate COVID 19

Written By Kelly Klund, LPN
Resource Nurse, Empira

Now that I have your attention let me explain.


I do hate that people are dying. I do hate that people are sick. I do hate that people are separated from their families. I do hate that people are losing their jobs. I do hate that our economy is crashing. I do hate that we don’t have a perfect health care infrastructure. I do hate that small businesses are suffering and some may not survive, and I do hate that our children’s education has been disrupted.

Where there is tragedy there is also triumph, and somewhere on the other end of this unprecedented time we will see that there may be things that are better because of what we have been through.

I think about the poem “I miss September 12th” by Elizabeth Gray.

I miss September 12, 2001. I would never want another 9/11, but I miss the America of 9/12. Stores ran out of flags to sell because they were being flown everywhere. People were Americans before they were upper or lower class, Jewish or Christian, Republican or Democrat. We hugged people without caring if they ate at Chick-fil-A or wore Nikes. On 9/12 what mattered more was what was uniting us than what divided us.

Elizabeth S. Gray

In a study completed in 2015 Pollak and Wilson found Advance Care Planning (ACP) conversations to be uncommon. The category of frail elderly patients was identified as a population with limited or no meaningful engagement in ACP. COVID 19 is forcing all of us to have hard, but necessary conversations about our health care wishes. This is a positive that has come from COVID19.

In 2017 Walmsley and McCormack published a study that showed the difficulty that family members encounter when trying to stay engaged. We all know of someone who visits their loved one in a nursing home every Sunday because it is the right thing to do, but they often don’t know what to talk about. With the strict visitor restrictions aging services has appropriately imposed many of those families have had to embrace technology as a way to stay connected. My hope is that when this is over those families continue with their meaningful good night or good morning video chats, as opposed to their weekly obligatory visits. That would be a positive that came from COVID 19.

I have a friend who hosts daily what’s for supper video chats with her girlfriends who struggle in the kitchen. Whether eating curbside pick-up or home cooked meals, people are congregating around the dinner table. This is a positive from COVID19.

I live in a small town in Wisconsin and our main street cafe posted on their Facebook page that they have had some of their busiest days ever. People are pulling together to support local businesses differently than before. This is a positive from COVID 19.
I don’t hate that COVID 19 cancelled my large family Easter celebration. Instead of the hustle and bustle of a house full of people, my husband, college aged daughter, adult son and I had a lovely family dinner at home. The belly laughs were abundant and the memories are priceless. This is a positive from COVID 19.

In the article “Forget Happiness, find Meaning” the author, Kaufmann, says that we should focus on empathy, compassion and gratitude when faced with challenges. There is meaning in COVID 19 for all of us, the challenge is for us to embrace that meaning and grow from it.
I am finding meaning in community, family and appreciation and that is why I don’t hate COVID 19, it is about perspective. I wouldn’t want this new way of life to last forever, but I can find the gifts.

In this time when everyone’s world has been upended where can you find opportunities for empathy, compassion and gratitude? I challenge you to find the September 12th moments in your life.

Kristian Pollock, Eleanor Wilson. Care and communication between health professionals and patients affected by severe or chronic illness in community care settings: a qualitative study of care at the end of life. Health Services and Delivery Research. 2015;(31). doi:10.3310/hsdr03310.
Kaufman SB. Forget Happiness, Find Meaning. Scientific American Mind. 2019;30(6):21. https://search-ebscohost-com.ezproxy.umuc.edu/login.aspx?direct=true&db=f5h&AN=139129444&site=eds-live&scope=site. Accessed April 13, 2020.
Walmsley B, McCormack L. Severe dementia: relational social engagement (RSE) during family visits. Aging & Mental Health. 2017;21(12):1262-1271. doi:10.1080/13607863.2016.1220923.