Today is ANZAC day in my country. It is a day to commemorate the terrible and futile battles at Gallipoli during World War I, where thousands of people died for absolutely no good purpose at all. On this day every year, representatives from Australia and New Zealand travel to Turkey to remember the loss alongside the Turkish people. So many of our soldiers still lie there, pieces of bones scattered through the dirt, names etched on stone.
Today is also the anniversary of my father's death. He faded slowly from the world after a long battle with cancer. I will always remember two converstions I had with him : one at the beginning, as we wept through our fear. And one at the end, as we spoke of love.
Life is all about battles, or so it seems to me. Every day, there is a struggle on some level. It may be just trying to get the laundry tap to close enough to stop dripping, or it may be trying to decide whether you load your family onto a ship that will carry you away from a deadly war zone - and possibly to the bottom of the sea. Every day, in tiny and monumental ways, we must choose how we are in a moment of battle.
Sometimes we make the wrong choices, as happened at Gallipoli. And sometimes we can't make a good choice even if we want to, due to circumstances beyond our control. Oh yes, and sometimes we make bad choices, for all kinds of sad and broken reasons. It doesn't mean we have failed. We can also choose how to be afterwards. The shame of Gallipoli will never be forgotten - but the fact ANZACs and Turkish people come together in friendship ... the fact Turkish women wrote to ANZAC women, promising to care for the graves of their lost children ... allows real healing even while we still open our hearts, even one hundred years later, to the sorrow.
Yesterday, I watched a tv reporter and his Turkish guide find broken pieces of human bone lying in the weeds at Gallipoli. They picked them up, buried them again beneath the soil. Their hands mingled, brushing away raw pain. They stood for a moment in silence. And I thought, if only we could all help each other do that, every day, for all our great and small battles. Find the bones, rebury the bones, honour the suffering with such simple grace. And then walk on, carrying the memory, the healing, but not the bones, with us.
I don't think we can have a world without battles. I'm not even sure we should. Seeking perfect tranquility means climbing a mountain or going deep into your mind, beyond the world we were gifted to live in. And while you're there, what good can you contribute? That kind of peace-seeking seems rather selfish to me. Every battle, every dripping tap and argument and mistake and invasion and personal sorrow, is an opportunity to do good. Be good. Wish for good. Or do wrong but grow and then afterwards repair it with others or even just within yourself, as best you can and with the best of intentions.
It's in hope, love, forgiveness, togetherness, regret, tears washing down, apologies accepted, that we find the truest peace of all.