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Adios sweet princess, you were special in every sense of the word

Naomi de S. Wijeyeratne

When my sister Naomi was born it was another child in the De Silva Wijeyeratne family to bridge the gender ratio. Our mum who had 10 children before Naomi realized a difference in her during the routine baths and later she was diagnosed as a special needs child. This was a shock to my parents as they did not know about it.

Naomi taught our late parents that they had an important role in this world.  They joined an association for families with children who had different needs just to exchange ideas. Perhaps this awareness changed the way our late parents raised her; she was always the centre of attention and “special” in every sense of the word.

Naomi had to work on things that we took for granted:  to crawl, walk and talk – the wait and the extra effort made each milestone a cause for celebration.  There was never a dull moment growing up with her.  Since she could not express or communicate in the traditional sense, her language was a top-secret in our household.   Dressing her like a Barbie doll with ribbons and bows, going for walks with her and piggybacking her home were some of our early memories with her.

Despite the fears and worries of the family having such a special child  “The Sumaga” and “Dayamina” centres for the differently abled played a major role in her gaining independence and autonomy.  She loved going to school and she was loved by all who came to know her as she was so gentle with a lot of humour.   It was clear she was happy at these centres and the Sisters of Charity remained a source of stability and familiarity; they became a large part of her world.  We as a family would like to thank each and every person at these two centres, who worked tirelessly with Noami and took care of her. You made her life so rich and full of your love, care, and patience. We know you touched her life in a positive and impactful way and we are sure she touched yours similarly.

Naomi’s love for music and dancing started at an early age and remained a constant source of enjoyment.  She was the first to take the dance floor at any party.  She would be grinning from ear to ear and doing her baila and twirls as she listened to “The Gypsies” –  her favourite band.  One song she loved was Afric Simone’s Ramaya. She looked forward to parties, especially the fun of Christmas time that came along with Santa Claus, fireworks, and caroling.

When Mum was getting feeble she eagerly waited to spend some time at my place during the weekends.  This gave me the opportunity to get close to her and spend more time pampering her. I still remember one day I was late to get to Baddegana.  By the time I reached Beddegana she was creating a rumpus and standing near the gate threatening to walk to my place.   The moment I parked the car she got in and I could not even say hi to Mum.  During these sleepovers, both of us did a lot of singing, dancing, colouring, laughing, and screaming at silly stuff.  She helped me to cut and chop vegetables and made sandwiches for the household.  Ranjit always made sure that her goodies were stocked prior to her arrival.

One thing my mum never forgot to mention during her twilight years during our visits was “look after Naomi” but with Mum passing away she lost her rock and could never come to terms with it.  Insecurity crept in and she got into a shell, lost in thought.  There were many times we wished we could read her mind to keep her happy. Slowly she clung on to her next best and would follow her sister Depika wherever she went like – Mary and her little lamb.

COVID-19 was a severe blow to her as her social life collapsed.  However much we tried to explain the pandemic to her she could not understand what terms like lockdowns, curfew, and pandemic meant. She started to fade and the much looked-forward-to visits to my place dried up and my visits to her increased.

Naomi girl, you enriched our lives and filled our house with much love and laughter.  You kept strong family bonds, a sense of community, and the belief that we were all in this together.  You advocated for us to change the world, to look beyond disability so you and others can flourish. Thank you for the empathy, love, and patience you taught us.

All these years we never left you alone but today you have decided to take the journey alone breaking our hearts into pieces.  We will take a step back Naomi girl and allow you to go to the person you were constantly asking for and the only person we could not bring back  – our “Amma”.   Dad, Mum and Anne must be standing near the gates with open arms waiting to welcome you.  Raise your wings, fly high and enjoy your new freedom, Naomi Boonja.

Dragging our feet we will join you soon, choking to sing the hymns we once sang to put you to sleep, knowing very well we will never sing them again for you.  Our house will not be the same and there are no words to express how much we will all miss you.  Adios sweet princess, until we all meet again on that beautiful shore.   You will forever live in our hearts and thoughts.

Vinodini Jayawardena


 

I will miss a loyal and delightful friend

Nimal Sureweere

Nimal Sureweere passed away peacefully in Vancouver, Canada on June 17, 2023. It is with deep sadness I received the news. He was my school friend and classmate. We were together in the boarding enjoying the rough and tumble of hostel life and then as day boys at Wesley College Colombo 1952-60.

Nimal had a remarkable sense of humour which lightened the burden of being away from our parents at that young age. He was a brilliant mimic and impersonator both of which he did to near perfection giving rise to fits of laughter and a great deal of fun. He had that ability to see the lighter side of life. Nimal was the author of many of the nicknames that stuck to fellow boarders like glue.

I recall most fondly the cricket and football we played in that dust bowl we called the Small Park. The fierce competition, the rows and arguments that ensued during those matches are all a part of the rich memories we cherish. With his wit and pranks Nimal became an integral part of the fabric of boarding life. In those, our childhood days with all the mischief and naughtiness, he had the ability to remain honest, dignified and be a loyal friend to many.

We have been close since those days in the boarding. We both sang in the school choir, joined in the carol services and took part in the operettas. This friendship grew even after Nimal left school in 1960. Then professional training, marriage and caring for our children usurped our time. We went our separate ways but reconnected in 2009 after he moved to Vancouver.

I live in London. Separated by time and vast stretches of land and ocean, keeping in touch hasn’t been easy. But whenever we chatted, the friendship and warmth returned. Time simply melted away as we recalled those wonderful years at school.

Whenever I spoke to Nimal he seemed to know a lot about many of my classmates, especially those living in Sri Lanka. He had the wonderful ability to gloss over the rough edges of people with his wit and humour. He spoke about each one of them with great affection and of how life has panned out for them after we had said our last goodbyes at the famous school gate.

Nimal had a long battle with cancer over many years. It was his tremendous courage, sunny optimism and deep faith that pulled him through those difficult years. He made best use of this precious time enjoying life with his everloving family. He always found peace within himself. He radiated and transmitted that tranquillity and calmness to his friends and all those who cared for him.

Despite all the evidence stacked against him he proved the medics wrong by living for several years longer enjoying life with his family. His indomitable courage and strong faith gave him a long and happy life. For this I applaud him.

Nimal, his wife Julie, son Dilshan and daughter Niroshi were a close knit family. The family was an enormous help to Nimal providing 24 hour care right to the very end. His loving granddaughter helped Nimal keep his spirits up all through those difficult months.

Above all, what we remember most about Nimal is his golden voice. An acclaimed tenor, his performances thrilled so many over several decades. With his uniquely thrilling voice and exceptionally endearing personality, he was able to reach out to people be it at a party or any event. He gave great pleasure to those around him singing those popular Sinhala and English songs beautifully. He sang many of the solos at our carol services. I remember him walking majestically up onto the stage in the Great Hall at Wesley College and being greeted with loud applause. We remember most dearly his fine singing at the evening gatherings of the Old Wesleyites Sports Club after imbibing a sip or two of the amber nectar. I have an abiding memory of singing with Nimal one evening on a sand dune at Hambantota whilst on a school trip. There he ended the evening’s proceedings with his signature tune “The Ash Grove”.

Our Golden Voice is no more. Ah! indeed, what a gift it was.

Nimal was a wonderful, loyal friend. He was a delight. I’ll miss him.

May his soul rest in peace.

Dr Nihal D. Amerasekera


An ambassador for the human condition

JAYANTHA DHANAPALA

Birth, thought, emotion, morality, conflict, and death may summarise what the human condition is. Not only through our friendship,  but over the long years I had accessed much about Jayantha from a wide circle, to be able to say that he was an ambassador for the human condition.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Sri Lanka issued a statement after his death that “…. the late Mr. Dhanapala was deeply admired and respected in Sri Lanka and internationally for his humanity” and  “…dedication to a  world free of weapons of mass destruction”. He was the deputy chairman of the governing board of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) which tracks military spending by governments around the world.

He had a formidable intellect, like many others. What separated Jayantha is that his brain serviced the humanity his heart conveyed.

That Jayantha attained distinction in the Sri Lanka foreign service and in the United Nations is not what his friends and those who knew him will remember. The memory will be of a human being as an individual reacting to the condition of other individuals congregated as societies and states.

My wife  and I first came to know him in 1957 when he and his wife to  be, Maureen entered Peradeniya University. It was our togetherness in university theatre, the activity that probes the living human condition by the live duality of actors and audience, that initiated our friendship.

We continued to do much theatre at the Lionel Wendt and he played leading roles in plays I directed including Horatio in Shakespeare’s Hamlet in which his fellow Trinitian Breckenridge played the title role.

It is not improbable that the United Nations wanted him to be at the top of the  disarmament division because they became aware of his thoughts and feelings on international war as the  most downgrading evidence of the human condition.

About a human such as Jayantha, what religion he happened to be in is irrelevant. Whatever the nature of the after life, it will receive you with acknowledgment, Jayantha.

Ernest Macintyre


In memory of my father’s ‘pal’

 Joseph Carl Lester Fonseka

Lester and Priti were family friends. Whenever there were functions, their names would always be on top of our guest list.

My late father Clement Alles loved this warm, hospitable couple. But Lester was his ‘pal’. I remember well the beautiful thanksgiving service, a few days after he passed away a year ago. This service in my favourite church ‘All Saints’ in Borella was ably organised by Nayantara and Roshi, the talented daughters of Lester and Priti.

When my husband passed away five years ago, Priti was my first visitor. She knew that I was going to be lonely and very sad. She has always been at my side, a tower of strength, a woman of deep faith in the teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Each of us comes from God in the Word and stands before him unique in his own nature and each of us has to return to God in the Holy Spirit in a movement of love. Death becomes a sacrament. It’s simply the passage to eternal life.

Marie Alles Fernando

 


To my darling Mahappochchi

Melvin Boralessa

I can’t believe you’re not walking this earth any more.

Can’t believe our most lovable uncle has bid farewell to us all.

Memories of our schooldays still vivid in my mind, when you took my cousin and me to school early morning.

The humorous fun-filled, made-up stories which sometimes brought fear into our hearts.

We giggled and screamed as we eagerly listened.

Glimpsed over our shoulder, and a dashing look up the “Mara” trees.

Just to make sure “Mahasohona” was not swinging from a branch, as you described.

Always looked forward to the days you escorted us to school.

Knowing more stories, adventures awaited.

It was such an exciting ride to school, and will never be forgotten in a lifetime.

Every afternoon you would hurry home in time for your favourite cartoon.

With your Scooby howl, announcing your arrival.

We clapped and bounced on the couch for you to turn the corner.

How innocent, how lovable, how wonderful an uncle you had been

Memories forever etched in my heart.

Of your loving nature, your caring words, your irreplaceable presence Mahappochchi for as long as I shall live.

And along this endless Sansara, may we meet again before you attain Nibbana one day.

Ever-loving

Rasanjana Kumarasinghe (Babi)


 

 

 

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