I am sat in the Garden of Remembrance in Melbourne’s King’s Domain. These beautiful gardens that encircle the Shrine of Rememberane were opened in 1985 in memorial of the men and women who have served in global conflicts since World War II, and on a waterfall before me, engraved in stone, are names of countries and their dates of notable conflict.
Cambodia 1991 – 1993
Korea 1950 -1953
Vietnam 1963 – 1973 and again in ’75
And perhaps the most harrowing for my own generation, the two with no “end,” date.
Iraq 2003 – ongoing.
Afghanisan 2001 – ongoing.
The water that topples and re-topples over the stones that the names are engraved on serves as a peaceful reverie from the busy city, one can guess such a thing is something the soldiers involved in those wars could only dream of.
It’s good to remember you know, to take the occassional trip down memory lane. One of my favorite quotes by a man named Bob Dylan is that you must “take care of your memories. For you cannot relive them,” and so today as I sit on green grass – on free land that was once bough at a tremendous cost, far beyond monetary transaction, I take a moment to remember.
I think of my paternal Grandpa who fought for freedom in Poland in World War II. I think of my Mother’s grandparents who served at the ultimate price in the Great War and though there is a sadness in it, in the memory of these people – some whom I did not get to meet yet feel indebted to in some strange way, a deeper sting comes when I read the plaques written in stone around the shrine and around places of remembrance the world over.
The inscriptions are similar “They gave their all, even life itself, that others might live in freedom and peace,” (the Crypt of the Shrine of Remembrance, Melbourne, Australia) “left all that was dear to them, endured hardnes, faced danger, and finally passed out of the sight of men by the path of duty and self sacrifice. Giving their lives that others might live in freedom,” (War Memorial Museum, Auckland, New Zealand) and perhaps the most well known “Lest we forget.” Though these statements are meaningful beyond measure, and I am often caught with tears in my eyes looking at them, I cannot help but feel a deep pang of frustration when my eyes skit from left to right across the words.
These plaques just sound startlingly familiar to what is written of Christ. They ring in a familliar tune to the scriptures littered through the new testement with it’s descriptions of God who “gave his one and only son,” and of Christ who laid down his own life to save yours and mine. Though that similarity makes me pay special hommage to those who have passed in war… I cannot help but wonder, if perhaps if we had remembered this initial ultimate sacrifice, learned from it in humility – not argued about it for sake of foolish pride, and chosen to live in the love and peace and freedom which Jesus spoke of those thousand or two years ago, the unadulterated humanity he preached… we may have avoided making the same mistakes again.
Had we remembered we may have thought twice about Kuwait in 1991.
Had we remembered we might have hesitated before East timor in 1999 to 2003.
Had we remembered, we might have avoided the Rwandan genocide in 1994 to 1996.
Because I believe Jesus to be the son of God (it’s okay, I’ve come to terms with the fact that by default – that sentence makes me out to have seriously danced upon the line between commonly accepted boundaries of sanity and its opposite) I believe that when he said “it is finished,” that “it” was. That the “it” – the wages of sin; death, guilt and shame – are weights we need bear no more. That when God decided one sacrifice, once crucifixion, one death to pay the price for many was enough… that it was; and to go to war and crucify our fellow man time and time again is simply repeating a sad song we should have all stopped singing a very long time ago. We aren’t made to save the world – we’re made to change it, and as we are proven over and over, childish war in and childish war out; that war is not a way to fix, or change things for better.
Easter celebrations begin tomorrow and interestingly enough, ANZAC Day falls on the Monday after people the world over will remember the ressurection of Christ this very Sunday. I will be buying a poppy for my Great Grandad Fleming, and giving Grandpa Sietkiewicz a bell, in taking time to remember the price for which my freedom was purchased by regular, every day hero’s and heroine’s like my ancestors, but first and foremost I will remember Jesus. Who so lovingly offered his life for my own, and as the revelation of his sacrifice sinks in to my bones and changes me from the bottom of my heart to the tips of my toes – I will try again to live in the love and peace and freedom that is to know Christ, for it is the only way I know how to make the world a more beautiful place.
Happy Easter everyone, and though it may sound strange; happy ANZAC day to you too – lest we forget, our freedom is something worth rejoicing in.