Monday, April 25, 2005

Dawn Service at the Bomana War Cemetery

Tramping up the road through the seminary we could hear the sound of distant voices from the War Cemetery, the low chorus of Abide with Me carrying through the darkness. Stumbling over stones and potholes we quickened our pace. Already late for the ceremony and not wanting to miss any more, I surged ahead of Pia and my neighbours as (I think) they realised behind me how much I wanted to be there, the surprised smiles of greeting in the morning outside our house (getting up early is not usually my forte!) changing into the realization that of course this service would be close to my heart, and maybe for once it was a case of them coming with me, not me accompanying them.

We entered the grounds as the Australian High Commissioner stepped up to the podium, unable to see him in the throng and dark, but aware of a stillness and respect from the crowd that has been missing since the recent Sir Michael furor - for this morning at least, tensions between the High Commission and the people of Papua New Guinea were forgotten.

As with last year, the laying of the wreaths and the speeches from the RSL were received with solemnity as the dawn slowly started breaking behind the cenotaph, and as the Last Post rang out from on top of the hill the faces of the gathered hundreds? thousand? became clearer – clear enough to see the woman next to me swallow back tears as we stood in silence, and to see the lump in the throat of the man on my right as the piper sounded.

Me, I was thinking of my Pop, who was here in Papua New Guinea during World War II and only told me months before he died, and it was with pride that I listened to our two countries’ anthems, knowing that I was connected to a man who was connected to this country, long before I ever thought of coming here.

I don’t know why I never thought to go to an ANZAC Day service back home, but there’s an undeniable need to connect with it over here, and to honour the men and women who came before me, and to claim this day as part of my heritage as an Australian – and a PNG resident - and a grandchild.


Post a Comment

<< Home