25th April 2018.
5.50am. Darkness. Marching feet. A hush speaking volumes. A parade halts and then comes to attention. A semi-circle huddles close surrounding a flagpole beneath which a stone monument shines bare. Two small bodies inch closer to mine. This is tradition. This is respect and gratitude. This is honour – this is ANZAC morning.
ANZAC morning has been part of my life as long as I can remember. At first it was along a dark footpath holding a parent’s hand – flashlight bobbing as we walked one street left and one right the the Queen Elizabeth Park where the cenotaph stood tall and imposing. Four cadets posted on each corner – not moving an inch. As I grew the flashlight was left at home and I stood beside a parent near the back of the crowd. At university it was a different cenotaph, standing resolutely beside a grandfather as he wore his medals with pride – he might not have been a NZer by birth, but by golly he stood straight and tall on ANZAC day.
Now, 30 years later I walk along the streets still. One turn right and a lone turn left to a cenotaph that isn’t as tall or imposing as the one of my childhood. It however still stands proud. I hold my own children’s hands as we join our fellow town members. We are all there in that darkness to acknowledge and appreciate the sacrifices of those who stood up for what they believed was right. We are there to show respect for those who not only gave their life, but came back with burdens we can’t even imagine. For families who lost members overseas and families who lost the person their loved one had once been. We stand and salute silently – and give thanks for the peace we have in this place – while murmuring a prayer under our breath for countries and people still caught in conflict.
My daughter grips one hand. My son grips the other. I do, again, shed silent tears as the anthems play. I am proud of my student as she reads in remembrance. To the three veterans sitting opposite the cenotaph from me – thankyou from the bottom of my heart for your courage, dedication and fortitude; but really that feels like it isn’t enough. I am so so blessed and so so thankful for the spirit of the ANZAC – and I promise you that I will make sure that my own children and my students alike will also know that it will be remembered, respected and returned.
|Photo credit: J McLellan 25/04/2018|