Dawn service

25 Apr

As you may or may not know, I am not what is so glibly described as  ‘a morning person’. I cautiously admit that I rarely rise before 7:30am, even during school term, and would much prefer to lay in until at least 8:30.As a mum, the most frequent dawn service I contributed was early morning breastfeeds for three ravenous babies. Throw in the occasional groggy up-the-back-pooh nappy change and a handful of stumbling wet-bed sheet changes and I can count fairly accurately the amount of times I’ve seen the sun-rise in the last nine years.

So it would be fair to say that it takes something fairly important to get me out of bed before the sun is brightly shining and the birds are singing. Well, this morning I was up at 4am. Wow! Who’d have thunk it? There really is a 4o’clock in the morning! My husband laughed at me when I told him what time I’d set my alarm for, not really believing I’d drag my weary bones up at that hour. But I did.

For about 15 years, since some time when I was a teenager, I’ve thought of going to an Anzac Day dawn service. I always had very good esleep to catch up on etc etc. But my sister, bless her, attended her first dawn service at one of our local beaches last year. She was almost poetic in her patriotic praise for such a momentous occasion in our national psyche. So today, I joined her. I wanted to see what all the fuss was about.

Anzac Day has been growing in popularity for the last decade or so. Thousands of young Aussies flock to the shores of Gallipoli, and thousands flocked to our beach-side service this morning, in the drizzly dark pre-dawn. Something was drawing us, but I wanted to know what it was.

I wanted to know if it was a nostalgic remembrance of the Anzac spirit which we seem to perpetuate by continuing to talk about ‘the Anzac spirit’. I wanted to see if it was a glorification of war, or an idolisation of those who gave their lives. I was interested in seeing if it was something that I would take my children to in years to come.

What I found at the beach at 5am this morning was a quiet, respectful reverence. Despite the thousands of people, despite the myriad cars, traffic hold-ups and lack of car-parks, despite the rain and not being able to see anything that was going on, people were still. Both young and old, veterans and the general public, men and women, we stood there, patiently honouring the sacrifice that our servicemen and women made in wars both past and present.

As we stood on the sand,the waves rolled in and we listened to the haunting call of the Last Post. It was easy to imagine being on another beach, 95 years ago, holding my breath, bile in my throat, waiting for all hell to break loose. The stillness of the dawn, the sense of trepidation. The sickening sense of fear that today, we have the privilege of being released from.

As the sun made its faithful journey over the horizon, the service ended with an overwhelming sense of gratitude. I couldn’t help but be touched by the sombre, yet grateful and respectful mood that pervaded the air. It bound us all together, as though we were all a part of something bigger than ourselves, and shared a common purpose. I guess that’s one of the reasons that our defence forces do what they do, and an especial credit to them that they serve voluntarily.

I wanted to freeze the atmosphere and disperse it over our whole society, each and every day of the year. Imagine what we could do with such respect, so much goodwill, appreciation and a common purpose. When the ties that bind us together are bigger than those that divide us, that’s the kind of community that I want to raise my children in.

Lest we forget.

3 Responses to “Dawn service”

  1. SistaInArms April 25, 2010 at 10:35 pm #

    Well said, a society that has respect for one another is a society that prospers and nurtures it’s citizens and rejects that which does not benefit a positive lifestyle. I believe we all want to raise our children in that sort environment. If we can pass those attitudes onto the next generation then their future will be bright.

  2. Josie May 3, 2010 at 3:31 am #

    Beautiful article. Brought tears to my eyes. Just needed a picture of an old diggers wrinkly, knarled hands and I would have been a total blubbering wreck!!! xx

  3. Caketin May 21, 2010 at 5:54 am #

    It’s a special moment when one stops, reflects and is truly grateful.
    Great writing.
    C x

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