No matter what your feelings about the significance of today, I defy anyone to hold it completely together during an ANZAC Day march.
The one in Hobart this morning has left me solemn. And a bit broken.
We went together, the small family, by almost-accident. I thought it was important to stay and watch, for Tiger. So she could see the music and the horses and to clap when the old men passed.
I never expected to be so moved.
The Vietnam Veterans were the ones who really did it. So young, still, with such haunted eyes; such straight, proud backs. It could have been my dad. Thank God it wasn’t my dad.
And then the older ones, for whom today is a rare day to be proud, and to come together. As you get older, life can become lonelier; your achievements fewer. Many of those men would have moments like these – when their history is recognised and honoured – so rarely. That’s heartbreaking, to me. That’s enough reason, in itself, to continue to recognise this day.
As they all marched – those old ones and their grandchildren and the ones in between who should never have gone to war at all, I thought of men I am proud to know – my Uncle Glen, my brave cousin, Grant. I thought of the husband of my amazing friend, Katherine.
I thought of men I wish I’d known – my grandfather. My husband’s great-uncle. I was grateful that a small squirrel led us by magic to the grave of the latter, in Edinburgh. I was grateful, too, for the crow that follows me and Tiger, watching, protecting. Letting me know my grandfather is still with us.
And I was, despite being a pacifist who believes war should never be glorified, grateful for those men and women who marched. For having gone before. For still being here, to remind us how lucky we are.
Today didn’t feel like glorification. It felt like remembrance. It felt like acknowledgement. It also felt like a reminder that you should be respectful of everyone; kind to everyone. You never know their full story or what horrors they might have seen, during wartime or otherwise.
And today also made me prayerful. I almost never pray, and when I do I’m never entirely sure to which god I’m praying. But I prayed today that my small girl should never have to see war. As she clapped and smiled and hugged her stuffed lamb, so innocent, I prayed she’d never have to say goodbye to someone she loves, because of war.
I made a silent promise, though, that we would come to the march again next year, and the one after, and even as the numbers of older ones grow fewer, I’d make sure that she would remember them.