Friday, 25 April 2014

"They shall grow not old,

as we that are left grow old.
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them."
Laurence Binyon

These are probably some of the most famous words in the English language. They are repeated over and over again at ANZAC Day services, Remembrance Day services and other memorial services. They are repeated nightly at the Menin Gate and nightly in RSL Clubs in Australia, RSA Clubs in New Zealand. They are often followed by a minute's silence and, during a service, then the words "Lest we forget" with the phrase then repeated by those present.

For those of my father's generation the words stretch back to the war the words were written for, World War One - for the fathers, mothers, uncles and aunts they did not know. For my generation it stretches back to World War Two and the relatives we did not know because they went to war before we were born. For the current generation war is something else again. The World Wars are "history" to them. They see war on the television screen and there is a remoteness about it for them which alarms me. "Terrorism" is something new and different.
So it is becoming increasingly important to involve ourselves in remembering. And this morning, once again without any planning,  there was a little gathering on the small lawn in our street for a moment of reflection for ANZAC Day. Nobody said anything. People just gathered quietly and left again just as quietly. The normally talkative Whirlwind just put her head against her father's shoulder. He had his arm around her. The two boys did the same to their mother. This year their father was home and stood behind them with his arms around all of them. The couple whose son was in Afghanistan were not there. They are at a Dawn Service elsewhere in the country - with their son. Someone else came with his two teenage children. They lost a wife and mother last year and it was hard for them but they had been told by a neighbour.

Will we do it again next year? Perhaps. Who knows? Some of us may be here. Others may not. It is nothing really, just people standing on a lawn waiting for the distant sound of a bugle playing the Last Post at a Dawn Service some distance away. It is also an "everything", a reminder of how we are able to live our ordinary, everyday and largely careless lives. It is a small, but active, way to remember.

The Whirlwind asked me yesterday about the meaning of those words. They had discussed them at school before Easter but I could see they still bothered her.
"I think I understand but I don't think I will ever know. I hope not anyway."
I hope she never knows either.


Vanessa Gebbie said...

On Tuesday evening, I stood under the Menin Gate surrounded by Australians, waiting for The Last Post ceremony. There were over for Anzac Day, with plans to attend a dedicated ceremony for that too. You could hardly move for people - adults, students, children. I was with my son, aged 22... and it was very poignant to think that so many of those commemorated were his age or younger. May they all rest in peace.

catdownunder said...

There really is renewed interest - if only it would translate into an end to violence!

Vanessa Gebbie said...

In the 'In Flanders Fields' Museum, in Ypres, (which is wonderful, brilliant...) when you are just coming to the exit turnstiles, you suddenly become aware that above you are draped 'flags' with the timeline of all the conflicts worldwide that have happened since the end of WW1. So many...since my son was born (1992) there were over twenty...