This holiday was born with the Declaration of Independence in 1776 which was written by my favorite patriot, Thomas Jefferson. This “season of independence” always reminds me of family and patriots. Today’s story is about two unrelated patriots, my mother, Betty, and Thomas Paine.
My mother was more than just my mother, she was my best friend. As she declined in health I never missed a day with her except for business trips and very, very short vacations. Due to her failing health during the last seven years of her life, we never traveled very far from home or stayed away more than a few days.
I remember growing up: she and my father always had large 4th of July parties that lasted into the night when we watched the “Fireworks” at the high school a half mile away. My parents were the product of immigrants, and carried with them high moral character and a love of the opportunity of America. My mother was the one who did the moral teaching and my father Hans did the moral lecturing. Growing up, the only time I told a lie, I was caught. It never happened again. Today he would be accused of physical abuse. I think what he did that day was set in place a brick of moral character. On the much softer side, I was lectured on George Washington and the cherry tree. The thought of chopping down a cherry tree never entered my mind after the lesson I was taught that day.
Betty’s last memory of Independence Day was that of calling 911 on one of her last 4th of Julys. We were on a short weekend trip and she had “one of her episodes” and wound up in the hospital. After that she often said, “I will always remember the 4th of July because that was the day I called 911.” One early morning the phone rang. It was Betty and she demanded that I rush to her apartment. She lived in an Assisted Living Facility about 5 minutes away. When I asked why and she said, “Philip, just come.” When she called me “Philip” I knew it was urgent. I raced to her home and entered her small apartment. I asked what was wrong. She said, “Take me to the hospital, I can’t breathe.” I put her in the car with her portable oxygen tank and we proceeded to the hospital. She seemed better, maybe just because I was there. In an attempt to make small talk I asked, “Why didn’t you call 911?” With a big smile on her face and a look of calmness she said, “I didn’t want to bother those nice boys again.” After that trip to the hospital she told all her friends that, “Philip is my 911.” On our last 911 she never returned home again, she died on Easter 2001. I am glad she never knew of September 11th that year. That 911 would have upset her very deeply. She was a patriot in her beliefs and her character. Today, we still have 4th of July parties every year and for me it is Independence Day and “the Day my Mom Called 911.”
Thomas Paine, the British born subject, came to America and became a patriot in only three years after his arrival in Philadelphia. He is best known for writing Common Sense, in January of 1776. It was a short publication that became the rallying cry for people to unite for independence. Common Sense was written to solidify the sentiment for independence from a tyrannical ruler. It outlined the series of abuses and united the peoples of the various colonies. Common Sense was the single largest publication in the history of America with over 150,000 copies distributed.
Paine, under the fear of being charged with sedition, released the first printing anonymously as “A British friend”. Later printings took on various pen names. Paine struggled financially all of his life. He never took a shilling for his work. All profits he was offered from the best seller of independence went back into price reductions to distribute his book which turned the tide to prepare the colonists for independence.
Next Paine wrote The Crisis in December of 1776 which was the first of several articles promoting an American Revolution to defeat tyranny. What was written in 1776 aptly applies today consistent with the series of abuses we are witnessing in our government. It starts with his most famous quote:
“These are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, the harder the conflict the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly; it is dearness only that gives everything it value.”
As you travel through your day, please think of a family member and some of the great men who gave us the reason to celebrate our freedom on this Independence Day.