Affaires de la vie


2. Promises

She could never forget a story she read about a man that fought on the Kokoda Trail. On the day that this man was called in from the front line as one of his few remaining 'healthy' comrades he made a promise to the men he was leaving behind, knowing their deaths were imminent he swore that if they died on those lonely battle fields, a lifetime away from their families, that he would return and bring their bodies home to rest. He returned home, married, developed a career and had children but 20 years after making this promise to a battalion of men that all lost their lives, he announced to his wife, 2 sons and daughter that he was going to move to the Kokoda Trail to fulfil what he felt was his obligation and bring home the remains of his abandoned comrades. His wife and 2 sons were furious proclaiming him heartless and insane he has since been quoted saying that since the day he gave his family up he hadn't given them another thought and aside from his daughter who was his only supporter, he didn't even know whether they were alive anymore. Armed with his old diaries, a landmine detector, a mattock and a shovel he spent the next 26 years of his life digging, recovering and returning the remains of these men to grateful and I'd imagine very surprised family. An amazing story, an example of fact so intriguing it catches the reader's attention maybe more effectively than anything made up, because of its interest and because it is real.

            But had this been fiction she could have enjoyed it more, revelled in the amazing commitment this shows. Buried herself in the eccentricities of a man that takes 20 years to act on a promise only to throw his whole life away fulfilling that goal, but as fact, that story can not completely take her mind and dance away with it the way she frequently allows fiction to. Because with fiction, once she turns that page, once she closes the book, those characters cease to exist. With non-fiction each character still lives, still feels and she could not get past this mans ability to walk away from a wife and 2 children and never give them a second thought, to not care whether they live or die. The article touches upon the family as though they are a by-product, not central to the story, and focuses on this mans 26 year journey, but she couldn't help asking herself, how much good can honestly be contained in a man with the ability to desert loved ones like that, with such particular abruptness that must only increase the suffering of those involved? Sure everyone has had it tough, has considered the 'up and bail', but a little part of her, the part that believes that love conquers all and fairy dust gives the believer the ability to fly, had always held tight to the belief that deep down in everyone (some deeper than others) there is an underlying sense of good, an underlying sense of responsibility and although he states that 'how could he think about something like family when hundreds, even thousands of men are yet to be returned to waiting families' her abhorrence at his treatment of a family that he must have cared for at some point and that cared for him, would not allow her to look upon this mans 26 year dedication as an act of good will, she had suspicions as to what true underlying motives would drive a man to suddenly be gripped by the dire obligation to fulfil a 20 year old promise. Whereas had this been fiction, had this story simply flown down from a brain bringing ink to paper, this would be a story of mateship and dedication. Instead, this real life man filled her with disgust and disappointment. The fallen men, those brave soldiers that saw nothing but death, destruction and misery in their final hours, would not have demanded the malicious disposal of a family unit for the fulfilment of a probably guilt induced, possibly escapist gesture of hope, a sentiment that once fulfilled seems to simply dig up old pain, piercing new wounds in the innocent lives of undeserving bystanders in the process.


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