My War Gone By
Coming home after many years way from home, what is left there? The pictures from memory and those he holds in his pocket, don’t recreate what is being looked for on his return. Regardless, he has returned, looking for things that he knows are no longer there. But the memories of the night that he broke the cardinal rule of the town are a powerful and poignant reminder of his wars gone by.
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today and forever shall remain so in the photograph. This image has the precious quality of holding on to time. We look so young. There is a party going on around us in our living room. People are merry, drinks are flowing and on the coffee table, in among the glasses of wine, there is a cake. A small chocolate cake from which protrudes a solitary candle, flickering, dancing the night away. This is our birthday celebration. Never in her life has mother failed to bear gifts for her children. This is another family affair with the added touch of Mother’s home-made wares. We finish another glass of lemonade and she ushers us behind the coffee table. The cake is now in front of us and she orders us with the prettiest smile I have ever seen, to stand together. She tells us to smile like her and aims her camera.
I have returned and yet no-one has noticed.
Life has now stolen away too many of my years and too many have died around me. I have lost fewer of my family than I have done strangers, but I feel more grief when I think of my loved ones than when I do of the hundreds that have lay fallen at my feet.
What is quantity in death?
The wounded, maimed and deceased have a place in our hearts, for the tragedies justifiably allow us empathy. Everyone looks for empathy from compatriots, but the greatest gift that makes the heart pure is actually having that gift and bestowing it upon those set deep within the enemy’s minefield.
I have walked back to the end of the pier where years ago the beach below would have been crammed with families and the air would fill with the laughter of children. Caroline and I used to hang over the railings and look down upon the little people below. Today it is grey and overcast, the beach is filled with silence and the air is full of quiescent memories. I limped slowly back here, back along the wooden boards once more to this white bench next to the railings. With my back to the wind coming in off the sea, I ease my tired body down onto the wet frame of the seat. When exactly did the world leave me behind?