Dear Kellie,

Dear Kellie

I like to think that you can read this from wherever you are. I like to think that because it is comforting to me. And comfort, when it comes to the absence of you, is scarce. So I take my threads of hope in there being a hereafter and I try to weave them into something tangible.  You, looking over my shoulder from another dimension.  Reading about the shock wave of your departure. Knowing that you are missed as much today as this day a year ago.

Truth is Kel, there really isn’t any way of reconciling your departure. It was sudden.  You were such a long way from home… you were meant to come back to us. You are meant to be here. I wish you were.

I spoke with you on Facebook messenger, we talked about the kids, your man, how it was all going.  You said how tired your were and something awful gripped me.  Through all the difficulties to that point you had barely even mentioned feeling low, even though the trials were many.  You were in isolation, and glad for the opportunity to rest.  Then it went quiet. I hoped then that you were getting lots of rest, that you would bounce back onto my screen and tell me how the weekend had been for you. 
But then, I saw a message in our patient group.  Someone said what a terrible shock it was to hear about your passing. I reeled. I messaged you. Kellie?  Did you hear me?  Did my thoughts catch in your wake and follow you to where you are?

I wrote to you on messenger for a while after I knew for sure.  Not wanting to believe you were truly gone. I’d been your online friend since you messaged me to ask if I would help with your blog and it was a fast-track friendship.  I hadn’t known you for very long, but I suspect you had a gift for making everyone feel like your close friend.  Warm, funny, irrepressible. That’s how I found you. I enjoyed our friendship and I looked forward to the futures we imagined, cured and cackling with a glass of wine.  Trans-tasman trips and girlie weekends. We joked about an arranged marriage for our firstborns, the way Mums like us can. Mums who wish they really could make the world do their bidding, keep their kids happy, safeguard the future. Mums who knew we couldn’t do any such thing.

I wish I knew how your family are. But I never joined your personal Facebook page.  We were always in contact via messenger or email and I don’t know how I didn’t think to Facebook friend request you.  I wish I had. I would have loved to have seen all the beautiful things your friends have said about you. To share with them this difficult date, a year since you left us. If any of them see this, I hope they know they are not the only ones wishing you were here.  Sometimes it helps to know there are others keeping the memories alive too; here we are Kel, a groundswell of grief. Your people.

I miss you Kellie. I miss your profile picture popping up. I miss the laughter that you brought me even on my sickest days.  Sometimes I would laugh until the tears squeezed out the corners of my eyes.  We were cyber friends, digital buddies, pen-pals of the keyboard kind.  When my days were awful, you were a bright spot. You funny, irreverent, girl.  I am cast adrift by my grief at your loss, and I knew you for such a short time. I cannot begin to comprehend how your Mum, your Aunty, your best friend are getting on. Your man, your eloquent lad, your beautiful girl. All the people closest to you.

Today, the world has travelled once around the sun since your heart stopped beating. For Mark and Luc and Ash, the rest of your beloved family, your friends; every laborious step of that year has been heavy with longing for you. There will be a silvery path of salt water in the wake of Earth’s orbit, because Kellie, we cannot help but measure our grief for you in tears and time. The earth will keep on traversing that path, and every year as it passes this dreadful date, we will commemorate you. All of the special memories that each of us has. All of the beauty, and liveliness that was you. We will put down our work, our play, our every-day, and remember the way our own worlds stopped the moment we heard about you. The incomprehensible news that you were gone from us. Around the wells of sadness that opened in our hearts, we will ring wreaths of remembering.

If my hopes are real, and somewhere just beyond, your soul is living on; know that we are remembering you.  Know that you mattered to us.  Know that everything you did and said and loved and created left an indelible print in this world.  You’ll be up there wearing some gorgeous jewelled floaty kaftan. Raising a glass with some new friends and old.  Rarking it up in celestial style. We miss you Kel.

xxx

Rach

The Pacifist and the Poppy

It’s ANZAC day, a special date in our calendar down in this part of the world.  If you are in the Northern Hemisphere, you’ll need to know that ANZAC stands for the combined services of Australia and New Zealand in the two World Wars.  Together, we joined with our allies to fight off the threats in Europe, the Middle East, Africa and closer to home.  On this date, we commemorate the fallen ANZAC soldiers.  It’s a day that stops the nation.  People attend dawn services and wear the red poppy on their lapels, sometimes alongside the service medals of generations gone before. The red poppy is the symbol of this day, as it reminds us of the battle of Flanders Field, now covered in red poppies.  A stark visual reminder of the bloodshed and lost souls of war.

Picture of a red poppy standing taller than the poppies in the field beyond. A true 'Flanders Field' full of red poppies to symbolise fallen soldiers.

I have always been horrified by war. The thought of having to go away to fight when you probably don’t want to.  Lucky for me, the only ‘traumatic echo’ I have of war, is the commando comic images burned into my childhood memories: young men being blasted into the beyond. I can’t fully comprehend that real soldiers spent their last days killing people and suffering as they watched their comrades injured or wiped off the face of the earth.  It’s a strange kind of political game I have never, ever understood.  I blame patriarchy and the male mentality for believing war is a solution to state issues. I will never sit with the ‘glory’ of war and I consider it to be a pointless, criminal waste of life.

My brother, when we were growing up, was fascinated by war, what little boys weren’t?  Where we lived in Papua New Guinea, war relics were easy to find.  There was a mount in our town of Lae, that was tunnelled out and used by the Japanese as a base hospital.  As a result, the land around the town was littered with artifacts of war.  Unexploded shells, bullets, and even, in the jungles beyond our town, crashed warplanes. I remember two particular finds.  A Japanese war helmet with a bullet hole in it.  And somehow, more poignantly, an Allies service food bowl with it’s fork rusted right through the rim. When the war ended, rather than surrender, the Japanese blew up the entrances and died inside. And like any antipodean school child, I have heard the stories about Japanese atrocities, I’ve read the books and been horrified by the cruelties inflicted upon Japanese-held prisoners of war.  But there were human souls inside that mountain who died because of war, too.  They died because they were soldier-pawns in a bigger game of war, played out by bigger men making decisions in rooms far from the fighting.

I just don’t get it.

We commemorate the bravery of those in the war effort.  Not all war effort, but WW1 and WW2.  These particular wars seem to have a sanitised, mythical greatness about them in our national psyche.  I do feel it was unthinkably brave to ‘do your duty’ if you were so unfortunate enough to be born in a time of war. And so they were. Brave beyond comprehension.  I can’t imagine the incredible damage done to so many psyches, faced with the gritty duty of firing on other human beings. My mother told me that my grandfather had a drinking problem because he had gone to war. He was away when she was born; a brand new husband and father who returned to his fledgling little family, a vastly different person.  I wonder who he would have been without that war. Who she would have been?

How far does warfare reach into the hearts and minds of the generations beyond?

Yes, we should remember them. But what is that remembrance for if we do not also begin to ask the questions that no one considers patriotic.  Why? Why did it happen?  How can we stop it happening now? And it is!  There are wars happening all over this planet, does it matter less because it is not our family members firing the bullets or taking them?  Does it matter that one of the greatest weapons of war across Africa is sexual assault and female mutilation?

War is not the only way to solve problems.  We are a race of intelligent souls, there are alternatives. There are radically different ways of thinking that could lead to a better future.

I mean no disrespect to our fallen ancestors; the terrible cost exacted by war on family after family. What I mean to say is that I can’t believe that we cannot get our act together and look for peace. Let us not create another reason for another commemoration.  That is the reason why, on this day,

I Remember Them.

I guess that makes me a pacifist.  How about you?  Do you have feelings about this? How is it that commemorations are our solemn duty, but having the conversations about how to stop it all, is not?