Amie Richardson: What Anzac Day means to me
"I'd like to make it to AnzacDay," Wayne told Seven Sharp's Hadyn Jones. It was February 2015, a day before my terminally-ill husband was about to embark on a week-long ride around the South Island on his orange Vespa as a fundraiser for blood cancer research.
Two months before he had been given three-six months to live. The lymphomas that were killing him were growing larger each day, after failing to respond to the massive quantities of various chemotherapy drugs pumped into his veins. The two months until AnzacDay seemed a long way away.
A former territorial who had aspirations of dying young in battle (up until New Zealand chose not to send troops to the 1991 Gulf War and he left the army), AnzacDay was Wayne's most important public holiday. He was compulsive in attending the dawn service and only ever missed one. His last.
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No doubt he was disappointed by my reaction to AnzacDay. Before I met Wayne, I had never attended a dawn service. I hadn't thought about war in positive terms since I played it with my brothers as a kid in the rocky hillside above our house in Alexandra. I was the Jenny to his Forrest – who knew all the words to Country Joe and the Fish and could quote from We Will Not Cease. Being more interested in the protest than the details, I didn't have many of my facts right – on any aspect of war itself, army numbers, reasons for and against going to war – so Wayne won those early arguments hands down.
Don't get me wrong. I believe absolutely we should commemorate those killed in war and honour those who return from the horrors of battle, but choosing the date of the landing at Gallipoli where Kiwi soldiers were slaughtered in the thousands seems a brutal reminder. But I guess that's the point.
On Tuesday, the boys and I will attend a dawn service at the Cenotaph in Dunedin's Queen's Gardens. It will be our second AnzacDay without Wayne. I'll tell them what this day meant to their dad and why it's important that we acknowledge it every year.
On his last AnzacDay, Wayne walked to the lookout over the Broad Bay Cemetery where he planned to be buried. At dawn, he took a selfie and posted it to Facebook for his friends and family. "Made it," he said.