Maddie, Paddington 1981, Anzac Day

Brisbane, 1981

Before he died, my father helped build the war memorial on Cooks Hill at Ithaca. We didn’t have money to contribute but he helped clear the land to make way for the cenotaph and plaque. It’s the only World War I monument that has a clock, and you can understand why there aren’t others. The dead don’t need to know the time. I don’t know why the town of Ithaca thought they might.

I go to the service on Anzac Day morning every year and I notice the clock, which generally keeps good time. I don’t go for my brother Edward, and I don’t go for my father, and certainly not to be thankful for anyone’s sacrifice, which they wouldn’t have made willingly. When the speakers talk about sacrifice, I close my ears. No, I go to mark death, to mark loss as the experience I’ve known most in my life.

It’s in late April, the service, and the sun is starting its slow journey away from us and towards the northern hemisphere. Ed used to come with me, but today I couldn’t rouse him from his stupor so I came on my own. My leg is healed altogether and I walked up from home without even thinking, just a twinge when I stopped and started again.

I used to stand at the back during the service so I could weep unnoticed. Now I go to the front and watch the young soldiers who make up the catafalque party. They’re the ones to watch. You see yourself in them. You see your brothers. You’d see your children if you had children, I imagine. Their uniforms change, their guns, but their fresh faces are as fresh as they were in the all the wars we’ve sent fresh faces to fight.

Today, the students from Bardon State School came along to sing a version of the poem ‘In Flanders Fields’. The larks, still bravely singing. The crows, who mark death for all of us, still sadly rarking this morning.

Taken from The True Story of Maddie Bright.