I feel freedom is something I can understand a little more than most. Though I have never been in jail, I have had psychiatric problems that have made it necessary for me to be secured in an institution for a number of months on different occasions.
Something I have heard at from the church I wish I had the chance to go to more often (Sacred Heart) is to “feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the sick and in prison, and bury the dead.” Visiting someone who is sick is something that I have tried to do as much of as possible because I know how hard it can be to not be able to take care of yourself and need 24-hour treatment.
One of the volunteer jobs I have had was to visit patients in a veteran’s hospital around 17 years ago. I really loved this work because I had two grandfathers, but one never spoke English or travelled outside Europe, and the other lived in Montreal. These men were incredible gentlemen, always offering me free coffee and snacks (even though they were already free) and they loved to tell their stories. There is such a power in telling a story – the symbolisms you can use, the descriptions and arguments you can weave into the text. I heard so many interesting things that I eventually decided I would try my hand at writing short stories. A couple of times I have used little scenes from these men’s stories and even their names to honour them.
These men, who now were old and infirm, lost their freedom despite the fact that they had done so much for our freedom: to choose our own path in life, to raise our children, to vote for our own leaders, and much more. It broke my heart one day to see that one man I visited often had lost his freedom to the point where, for his own safety, he had to be secured to his bed.
So now I look at freedom in a different way. I take great pleasure in cooking my own food, and in going shopping and picking out the things I like that are healthy for me. I no longer have to line up for second-rate institutional food. I have the freedom to stay up all night writing or to take two hours and go for a long, relaxing walk in the fresh air. I have my freedom now, but it comes with a price. It was a price paid by the men and women who fought for us in our many wars; it is a price in dollars that we have to earn for ourselves and our families five or more days a week; and it is a price we also have to pay in following the laws of this great society we live in. Freedom is really a very fluid and difficult thing to put a finger on, but after what I’ve been through and now am able to do, it is something I find is worth every penny, every drop of “blood, toil, tears, and sweat” to quote Winston Churchill.
Leif is a writer living in McCauley who has self-published 10 books, which are available for free in paperback and digital ebook through the Edmonton Public Library.