It doesn’t take a war to take a life

Anzac Day 1994, 9.15pm.

I am sitting on the side of the bed in our house in Calwell contemplating getting an early night.

The phone next to me rings. I pick it up and say hello, and hear my father’s voice.

My memory now shifts to a view of myself sitting hunched over, head in my hands, phone receiver to my ear, listening as my father tells me my sister Melissa has been found dead.

His voice is breaking, tearful, shocking and yet somehow still conveys an unshakeable sense of goodness and innocence that I cannot reconcile with the words he speaks.

There is something about her body being found, something about a dam, something about maybe it is suicide or maybe it something else. I’m not sure if he used the word murder.

From there I remember in snatches, my wife’s concern, my retelling of the conversation, her embrace.

An overwhelming desire grips me to drive right then and there to Newcastle and sort this out. Logically I know I can do nothing to change what I’ve heard. But instinctively I feel driven to protect, resolve, make good.

On days like today I still feel this restless urge, that if somehow I go and see and am present, Melissa will be ok. That’s probably why I am writing now. I’ve seen this grief response in others and at least this helps me understand.

On a day when the whole nation remembers the deaths of many, my family will, each in their own way, remember one. I’m sure we are not the only ones.

There is a murderer out there somewhere who has never been held to account. Maybe he remembers today as well. Or maybe he remembers a date a few days earlier when Melissa’s life was actually taken, before being dumped into the remote Burrenjim Dam only to be “found by a Sydney couple four-wheel driving with friends” on April 25.

I wonder who this couple is and the horror of what they saw? I wonder about the terror of Melissa’s final moments. I wonder about the police investigation and DNA reports and DPPs and cold case units, all of which seem to have vanished for us.

I wonder if my parents and Melissa’s children will ever receive justice? I wonder when we can reclaim Melissa from this act of violence. It is one thing to go on, to keep living, to eventually smile and laugh and feel again. It is another to feel the strength of justice straighten your back and lengthen your gaze.

I know that Melissa is with God because I know what faith was sown in her heart and what cry was on her lips with her last breath. I know this because of the hope within me.

But I don’t know who killed her and I want to…

PLEASE VISIT JUSTICEFORMELISSA.COM FOR FURTHER UPDATES ABOUT THE UNSOLVED MURDER OF MELISSA HUNT (HALLETT)

The dealings of grief and possibilities

‘The emotion of it was still strong. There was a bitterness in him that he continued to chew over as Digger did not. For Digger it had been one time of his life among others; a time, simply, that had laid hard responsibilities on him, but ones that were too deeply ingrained in his nature now for regret. He accepted them. He made no complaint.

‘For Vic the injustice that had been done to him was absolute, a thing he could not forgive. Some possibility had been killed in him then, and though he had found others and made what he could of them – that’s how he was; that was his nature, his character – that other possibility, the one that had been starved and beaten out of him, seemed especially precious.’ The Great World, David Malouf.

An old war veteran died today. Like all of them, Claude Stanley Choules no doubt had his own way of dealing with the grief of war.

‘He served in two wars but he hated war – he just saw it as a job,’ said his son Adrian. At 110 he had been the last remaining World War 1 combat veteran.

Incredible grief and loss is buried in the lives of many who have returned from war but also in many who have never been. Australian author David Malouf captures two of the dealings of pain, loss and grief. Does one or the other resonate with you?

Some of us integrate it and become something a little more, or perhaps a little less, than we might have been. Others are driven and cajoled by what might have been and never truly settle. Even achieving great other ‘possibilities’ does not assuage our sense of loss.

There is a Way that releases us so that now and not the past becomes the arena of living.