I must admit, I feel very distant to you. I suppose that’s not surprising.
Time has separated us.
Your existence is like an echo in a cavernous hall down the road from my consciousness.
I know you were here once.
Every year, on the 25th of April, I’ve been trained to re-member you.
As a little girl, I would wake up very early and go to the dawn service in ANZAC Park in Nelson, New Zealand.
There were the men in their uniforms, red poppies pinned to their chests, neat and tidy.
There were the plates of ANZAC biscuits, simple, dry and sweet (the perfect companion to a cup of hot chocolate.)
At the end,
after ‘the going down of the sun and in the morning’
after the last post, that sad solitary trumpet, craving jazz and joy,
after a moment of silence,
the gun shot.
It always gave me a fright, the gunshot salute.
I felt it echo through my buoyant, bouncing child’s body.
It felt curiously cruel, ending the service the same way your life would have ended,
with that cold, sharp metal tear-drop,
that bullet made of fear, used for fear,
piercing fear into you, fear into me,
fear into the world, fear into your family.
That bullet shot, that salute still echoes in me today.
I don’t know what your eyes consumed unwillingly.
I don’t know if you thought you made a difference.
I don’t know whether you believed in God, in heaven or in hell.
I don’t know what you loved, or who, or where.
I don’t know if you were Maori, or Fijian, or Pakeha, or Scottish, or Irish or Australian.
Lest we forget, they say. And I do my best.
But I wish I knew more.
To me all you are is the echo of a gunshot.
You are defined by your unjust death.
I can only mourn the loss of possibility, and that feels so dissatisfying.
How much you could have given the world!
How deeply ashamed I am to know that though your loss is still mourned, there are so many innocent lives lost daily on this earth in much the same way you went,
the same metal tear-drop, the same frozen hatred that pierced you,
it pierces people today, rips through their bodies, young and old, male and female alike.
The technology might be different but the act is the same.
And once a year, I open myself up and feel that rip echo in my body,
through every molecule, through every inch of me.
I want to numb myself to it, I want to forget it. It hurts, re-membering.
But you, them, they, her, him, you had no choice.
Yesterday, and today and no doubt tomorrow, we cannot afford to forget.
We will, we must, with every fibre in our vulnerable, finite, beauteous beings,
In this flawed letter,
I have tried my best to re-member you.
And I wish it were enough.