Sharing an unspoken bond
THE one thing the 45 members of the Lismore War Widows' Guild all have in common is the one thing they never speak of.
“My husband never talked much about the war and I don't either,” guild treasurer Geraldine Nicholson said.
She doesn't think much about the war either – apart from on Anzac Day.
“We try to shut it out,” she said.
And that seems to be the unwritten rule of the Lismore branch of the War Widows' Guild of Australia.
“We don't talk about it,” branch president Olive Smith said. “We don't ask where your husband served.”
Instead the group offers fun, companionship and an unspoken understanding to its members – who number about 100,000 nationwide and are dominated by the widows of World War II veterans – most of whom have now passed away.
Yesterday the Lismore branch marked its 60th birthday with a celebration attended by guild national president Audrey Blood, NSW president Anne Bonner and Lismore City Mayor Jenny Dowell.
The recent deaths of Australian soldiers in Afghanistan, and before that in Iraq, could help revitalise interest in the guild.
Mrs Blood acknowledged the steady aging of the group's membership, combined with Australia having no war dead between the Vietnam War and the second Gulf War, had pointed to an organisation whose time was coming to an end.
The comparatively small number of Australian deaths in the wars that followed WWII suggested the guild's membership was marching steadily towards collapse.
However, the deaths of Australians in Iraq and Afghanistan has brought renewed interest in the guild and added a new layer of sadness to the other never-discussed layers beneath.
So far few of the new generation of war widows have signed up for guild membership – something Mrs Blood is not surprised by.
However, the widows stand ready to offer companionship and a few good meals whenever the new generation of widows needs it.