National Day of Mourning
I hurried back home after morning worship and pancakes (it's nearly Shrove Tuesday)in order to watch the National Day of Mourning Service on TV which commenced at 11 a.m. at the Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne. I missed the opening and our rather ordinary National Anthem, and picked up with Aunty Joy, an Aboriginal Elder speaking, and holding a symbolic branch of gum leaves.
It was a beautiful memorial service. There were too many speeches of course, and the best one by Ted Baillieu where he used a list of images vividly recalling the colours - yellow, orange, blue, khaki, of the emergency workers. Princess Anne graced the occasion with her beautiful diction but her speech was rather dull. Kevin Rudd gave a heart-felt speech about courage, compassion, resilience. The Governor-General gave a thoughtful tribute. Mostly there were good wishes and hope for the future, for rebuilding. Perhaps for many people though, it is not yet the time, as they are still in the stage of shock with unimaginable grief. Also, many people are in the burns units of our city hospitals.
I was touched by the singing of the Leonard Cohen Alleluia which is a lovely lamentation (and I had played it on the piano earlier this morning at the East Geelong Uniting Church) the song 'Touch', the song 'We are Australian'. The symbols of a wreath and white flowers, the chime of triangles, the interfaith prayers by a Buddhist nun followed by Rev Jason Kioa, our Uniting Church Moderator, and a nice touch to see Jason walking down the steps with an Islamic leader holding his arm for assistance.
The choice of slides (on the TV anyway) was very moving and included pictures of the Australian bush before the fires, grieving people being comforted, the courageous voluntary fire-fighters, and a now-famous koala of course!
Very well done, organizers. An excellent national occasion and for those who were there it would make for an indelible memory for the future.
Three photos from Herald Sun.
The short message from Ted Baillieu:
Our message is: we are as one. Victoria is as one
To each and every one of you sharing this quiet. To those in all the towns about. To those in homes. In prayer. In pubs. In hospitals. In city streets.
To those in the relief centres. The staging points. To those who have assembled here.
To those buried in each other's arms. Holding each other's hands. Wiping each other's tears. To those trembling still. To the children in wonder.
To those who answered the call — from far and wide. In yellow, in green, in orange, in blue, in khaki, in white. And under the cross of red. And those still dusted in black. To those pitching the canvas. Those under it. Those who have lost homes.
To family and friends of those who have perished.
But most of all to those who have seen the flames. To those who have been blinded by the darkness of the day. Smelled the smoke. Heard the roar. And then in turn been deafened by the silence. Our simple message is: we are as one. Victoria is as one. You have our hearts. You have our hands. We could quell these fires with tears. But tell your stories. Tell your stories and let's lift the sadness together. Victoria at its most ferocious is now at its finest.
And this is part of the speech by the Governor-General, Quentin Bryce.
The unthinkable, we must think. The unimaginable, we must see. The unspeakable, we must speak. The unbearable, we must weep.
We must allow the thoughts and images and words that have so recently scorched and swamped us to gently settle, and find their proper and worthy place in our hearts and minds.
We must recognise these memories as an inseparable part of us. They are the make-up of our growing wisdom and our fresh intent.
We are altered by them, yet they are what will forever sustain us.
We must tend to the gaps left by those we have lost, and we must keep their smiles always in our sights. We must hold on to the pride we feel in what we've built, the admiration and gratitude we have for others' strength and courage, and our belief in our own.
To be a whole person, or a whole nation, is not to enjoy a perfect, untrammelled life, untouched by challenge or catastrophe. Rather, it is the blisters and cracks, the scars and loss, the failures and sorrow, and our honesty and hopefulness in all that are the essence of our resilience, unity and completeness.
Australians here and everywhere, today we acknowledge that life is indeed not perfect, and we give thanks to one another for being whole.