it’s sad how a huge chunk of history gets lost over time. facts are filtered through one’s perception of the events, diluting or polluting its very essence according to each subjective view. everyone has a different version of the truth. not every detail makes the cut. the brain only remembers what it wants to remember.
maybe that’s what shrines are there for — as a memorial of the past long gone. a physical reminder of the intangible legacy that has shaped a country and a nation. a tribute to the nameless and faceless heroes who gave up their lives for the greater good.
the shrine of remembrance is exactly that. and it trips me how it never occurred to me to pop in for a visit before, especially when my folks were here for a holiday. they would’ve liked this place. any oldie would like this place. even i like this place. not because of the latter but because i’m a sucker for history even though i suck at memorizing dates, names, places, and events. you know, the very things you ought to tattoo to your brain to make your narrative sound so credible that your listeners wouldn’t even dare question you as they’d be too busy fighting off sleep.
i guess my mind works in a different way. i tend to look at the bigger picture. the stories behind the stories. and if the stories behind the stories behind the stories are interesting as well, i’ll soak that up too. because admittedly, those ones are way juicier than the one that made it through press. i reckon that’s the nucleus that holds everything else together. the cogs that set the wheel spinning. and the rest, as the cliché goes, is history.
The Shrine of Remembrance was created to meet the needs of a grieving community after the extensive loss of lives in the First World War (1914 –18). 114,000 Victorians enlisted in the First World War. Of the 89,000 of them who served abroad 19,000 were killed. They were buried in distant graves far from home at a time when most Australians did not travel abroad. The Shrine provided a place where Victorians could grieve as individuals, as families or as a community. It also served to honour the courage of the men, women and children who remained at home. (source)
one of the things that caught my attention were the books on display that had all these names written on them in beautiful calligraphy. as we were on a self-guided tour, common sense told me those must be the names of the soldiers who died. the 19,000 of the 89,000 who enlisted. roughly 21%, if my computation serves me right. and i wondered, what were all these men like — not as soldiers — but as dads, brothers, sons, husbands, neighbors, or just as a person in general?
then again, i also wondered, what happened to the other 79% who survived? what was their life like after the war and back into the real world with its own set of daily battles? how did their experiences shape their thoughts, their emotions, their view of the world? did it harden them, or were they more accepting of life’s bullshit?
i may never know the answers to these questions and that’s okay. heaven forbid their ghosts would come to me to share their stories. i’m happy not knowing, thank you very much.
climbing about 66 steps to get to the balcony may sound daunting but the view, i reckon, is definitely worth it. from above, everything looks small. people are mere dots in the vast expanse of the forecourt, enjoying the freedom that those soldiers fought and died for.
mebourne’s skyline paints the perfect backdrop. how the city has grown and flourished since then. those men, may they rest in peace, must be proud of what they have accomplished. their sacrifices were not in vain. and so every year we continue to remember them and celebrate them for their selflessness.
i think now i can finally start to appreciate ANZAC day more than the cookies themselves. although i have to say, those cookies are the bomb!
when everything is said and done, and i nailed my blogger pose down pat without even trying, i guess we are all heroes in our own little way. and we certainly don’t need to be dead to be recognized as such.
because not all heroes are given higher ranks or decorated with war medals galore. they could be the woman snoring next to you on the train after a long day of work. or the random stranger who acknowledges your existence with a smile. ordinary acts of kindness that, in this day and age, can mean so much.
you don’t need to go to war to make a difference in someone else’s life.
*raven at 1 year and 10 months old