Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Christmas in Sydney

Its been a few years since we were in Sydney for Christmas and I am glad to be home and to finally have a bit of time to relax.  We catch up with friends in the lead up to Christmas and celebrate with our friends Anita and Mario who have opened up a new cafe in Berowra Waters just in time to celebrate their 24th wedding anniversary.

The lead up to Christmas is rocked by an incident at the popular Lindt cafe.  A lone gun man takes the cafe goes hostage and two people end up losing their lives as the rest of the hostages are freed.  It is an awful incident and in the next week, Martin Place is full of tributes and messages to the two people who lost their lives.

The weather is warming up and we decide we want to get to some events this summer.  I’ve never been to carols in the domain so we decide to tick that one off the bucket list. We arrive a little late but we manage to squeeze our picnic blanket on what seems like the only bit of grass left.  It’s a nice warm and dry evening - perfect for enjoying a bit of Christmas music.

Christmas is once again celebrated with both of our families.  Christmas eve with my sister and Christmas day with Steve’s extended clan although this year Con, Chrissa and the kids are in Hawaii.

Thankfully, we have good weather on Christmas day, and we spend a relaxed afternoon at Jim and Eleni’s, as they host the festivities.  We catch up with Eleni’s friend Penelope, visiting from Greece and tuck into lamb on the spit and many other goodies.

We see the New Year in on the water again.  We have booked tickets from the ferry at Rosebay and after enjoying some great Thai food, we watch the fireworks explode over Sydney.  Happy 2015!

Monday, December 22, 2014

North Sydney Pop Up

Fate or Destiny has been doing the rounds in Sydney.  After being at the Newcastle gallery for 6 weeks, it moved to the Pine Street Gallery in Chippendale while I was in Sri Lanka.  Now, it is time to install it at the North Sydney Pop Up, where we are collaborating with a number of other artists.  The Pop Up initiative is being taken up by a number of Councils and is a wonderful opportunity for artists to showcase their work in different parts of Sydney.

The space in North Sydney is a great location.  There are many locals who stop by to have a peek and a few office workers who stop by during their lunch break.  The three artists we are sharing this space with are Victoria Chu, a shoe maker, Jon Watkins who makes cigar box guitars and John Wright, a sculptor.  We’ve met them through our friends Myff and Peter who live in Brooklyn.  Peter is also an artists and his work has also hung in the Pop Up.  I am
the guest artist for December, so I am given lots of space and a couple of the images are also on show in the window.

On Thursday, the 4th of December we have an opening.  The event has been advertised through North Sydney Council and quite a few people turn up.  The atmosphere is great.  There’s lots of wine and beer to help the evening along and a DJ livens up the mood outside with a great selection of music.

This must be my lucky night as a passer by walks in and decides to purchase my lead image - Fate or Destiny.  It is an striking piece and many people have often remarked on the colours and the composition.

During our time here we get to John, Vic and Jon.  John’s sculpture David sits outside and people stop to admire it and pin a Christmas message on it.  It is a great piece that draws people into the shop.  My photographs in the window are also a good attraction.  Vic holds workshops for various people who are keen to learn how to make their own sandals.  The class is popular and brings another set of visitors into the shop on Saturdays.  Jon’s guitars are colourful and each has its own design and many people are curious about how they were made and if they can be played...yes they can!

Our time at the Pop Up goes quickly and soon it is time to shut up shop for Christmas but for Fate or Destiny, the journey is only beginning.  

Sunday, November 30, 2014


It has been a long time since my sister and I spent such a long time together in Sri Lanka.  It is a sad time for us, having just lost our mum.  But it is also a realisation that home as we knew it will never be the same again.

After all the formalities are over, we spend a bit of time cleaning out the house we were born in.  We spent the first 10 or so years of our lives here and the house is very special to us.  Yet, given that we both live in Sri Lanka, it is not realistic to think we could hold on to it.

We clean it out, distribute the bits and pieces of furniture still left in it and get ready to start the process of saying goodbye to it.  Our albums are full of the black and white photographs we took here.  We try and recreate a bit of this history before my sister heads back to Sydney.

My last week in Sri Lanka is quite hectic but there is one thing I find time for and that is to visit the Sunday Market in the town I grew up in.  Walking around with a camera elicits some looks, some smiles and a few questions as to where I am from.  Fortunately, I can answer back in Sinhalese - my native tongue - and they go back to their stalls somewhat appeased.

Finally it is time for me to leave.  Home as I have known it for more than 50 years is now no more.  I will always come back to Sri Lanka to visit my close family and friends, but will I still think of it as home?  I don’t know for sure...

Friday, November 28, 2014

Five weeks in Sri Lanka

I spend 5 weeks in Sri Lanka after the funeral and it is a hectic time.  We have a lot to sort through, de cluttering the house and putting things in order before it is time to head back to Sydney.  We have an alms giving at the Elders Home according to the Sri Lankan tradition.  
My mum was very much involved with this home as it is run by the Methodist Church.  She often treated the ladies here to lunch in memory of my dad so we knew she would be pleased we had decided to give the ladies here a nice buriyani lunch in memory of her.

We also spend time catching up with some of my mum’s friends who were unable to come to the funeral as well as our close friends and family.  The funeral is a stressful time and there isn’t enough time to really meet and catch up with everyone who visits, so it is good to spend quality time with the family afterwards.  We are grateful to so many people who really rallied round my mum when she was ill, so it is good to be able to say thank you to everyone in person.

Some mornings, my sister and I walk along the beach.  We lived just a few minutes from the coast and I have always felt an incredible connection to water and listening the crashing of waves is my favourite form of relaxation.  

I am also glad to reconnect with my classmates.  In Sri Lanka, we spend all our childhood years in the one school, so the ties with classmates is a very strong one.

There are so many people who will miss my mum, besides my sister and me and our family and friends.  

I knew my mum was a generous lady but even I have been amazed at the stories I heard.From the fishman who’s family has brought us fish for generations to the garbage collectors and Ari and Leela, the people who cared for her...she will be missed.  

One of the stranger things that happened was that one of my friends Yvonne who I initially met in the Middle East and later reconnected with in Sydney happened to be visiting Sri Lanka at the same time.  She messaged me on FB and we managed to fit in a couple of days where she and her friends visited and stayed with me at my mum’s house.  

It was a hectic time, with tears and laughter and many moments of reminiscing.  I will always miss my mum but I leave Sri Lanka, knowing that the memories accumulated over more than 50 years will sustain me. 

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Memorial Service - Manel De Silva

A few weeks after my mum passed away, we had a memorial service for her.  My cousin Ramani Samarasundera gave this message and tribute at her service.

My mind goes to the words of that endearing song  … “how do you thank someone who had taken you from crayons to perfume… it isn’t easy but I’ll try”…... I think for a lot of us nieces and nephews Manel anty did just that and so much more… she not only was there to possibly change our nappies and play house with us and draw out favourite pictures with us… but she was also there when we grew up, to check out our wardrobes, go shopping with us, choose our wedding sarees..and see us make our own homes and bring up our own families.

With apologies to all the other aunts gathered here today who would also I am sure agree wholeheartedly…. Manel anty was undoubtedly the favorite aunt.

Her fame and followership had at its heart what I’d like to term the 4F’s.. FOOD, FUN, FRIENDSHIP and FELLOWSHIP.  A party at Manel anty’s was not to be missed. Whilst as children we probably were a bit in awe of the bigwigs that came for someone of the bigger do’s the most loved parties were when the family came together. I think many of us cousins and our spouses were cajoled into the ABCs of the wines and cocktail thanks to Leonard mama and my father. Cotton fields belting out on the piano keys by manel anty accompanied by the voices of my uncles toned to perfection with the help of some friendly spirits  was only to be followed by “there’s a hole in the bucket dear Liza” not forgetting “Dilhani duwani”.. these were familiar sounds that were heard from the then no 30.
I’ve learnt some life lessons from this favourite aunt of mine and some stories are in order this evening to celebrate who she was and is and will be to all of us.  One of my earliest recollections was as a little girl how I was found out having “sneaked out ” some gummy bears from the akkis… I think I had hidden it under the mattress at their home. I remember
being severely reprimanded and told not to do such a thing ever again ….and she assured me that my mother will not be told about the incident. Looking back I believe it was foundational lesson in building honesty and integrity in the choices of my life.

The next stark memory I have is when one of my cousins in her eagerness to help, broke the Kenwood mixer bowl which was at the time a prized possession in any home. What I remember is that I didn’t hear blame being heaped on the guilt and remorse of an eager teenager whose intention had been to help. There was empathy for the pain. It still remains a very strong image in my heart and mind and one that I often draw upon both at work and at home – to understand the intentions of others in a given situation before jumping to conclusions and judgment.  

Much has been said about Manel anty and her generosity… but I think for me the epitome of that love and generosity is that she “let go” of her 2 girls. I remember reading a verse in a
birthday card many years back which talked about giving love wings… and it talked about “letting go” “giving wings” to a bird who can fly away vs. keeping a bird in a cage with no choice but to stay and love you. The bird who was given the freedom to fly the story related will always come back because of the love at home. She “let go” of having them around, she “let go” of them living within the frameworks she knew and had been brought up to believe in … she let go of seeing them take on their own worlds , she “let go” of seeing them mark the successes in their own lives….

I believe she was able to “let go” because she “let God” … she had peace in letting go as she trusted her Lord and Saviour with what was most precious to her. She was able to do that because she trusted and rested in the love of her God… because she was one with the father. She “let her God” take care of them, their needs and also of her needs. And as she “let go” and “let God” she “got more” … got more love, more care, more experiences, more laughter, more memories, more friends from not only the 2 she “let go” but also many more, including us gathered here. Now for me that is a challenge, a challenge I am learning each day… how to love but not stifle….how to “let go” and “let God”

And as we bring to a close this evening in which we shared so many precious memories and recounted many stories of a love so dear, a smile so warm and a memory so endearing I will leave you with some thoughts from God’s word on “letting go and letting God”
We heard read for us today from St. Mathews Gospel how Jesus spoke to the people of the day challenging them NOT TO WORRY….

Matthew 6: 25-34
Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?  Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’  But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 

It is hard isn’t it to not worry?? It is almost as we have been wired to worry… we fail to realize that there is absolutely nothing we accomplish by expending our time energy and peace of mind by worrying about an outcome of a situation that WE CANNOT CHANGE…
C.S. Lewis writes...remember that one is given the strength to bare the things that happen to one but not the 101 things that might happen.
Jesus speaks to us as he did many years ago an anxious young woman ….‘Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary.  Luke 10:38-42

but my friends you and I as Christians are not walking this road alone.                                                                                                                                                           

We have a risen living God.
We have a God who has promised never to leave us alone...
We have a God and Shepherd who walks with us through the shadow of the valley of death.
He knows and he is in control.  Shouldn’t that be sufficient for us?     
We often rationalize worry and think we are doing the right thing by worrying because we are misguided to think that it will accomplish one or more of the following:

1.     We think we’ll find a solution
2.     We worry because we don’t want to overlook anything
3.     We think that by thinking a little longer we will figure it all out
4.     We don’t want to be surprised and so we worry
5.     Some of us worry because we don’t want to be held responsible or accountable

In 2 Choriniclers 20: 17  we read:  But you will not even need to fight. Take your positions; then stand still and watch the LORD’s victory. He is with you, O people of Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid or discouraged. Go out there tomorrow, for the LORD is with you!"

What God tells Jehoshaphat in this passage and what he would remind us of today is this: "The battle is not yours; it's mine. You don’t have to fight in it."

In other words, your problems are God’s problems. “Let go” and “LET GOD”.

God tells Jehoshaphat, "Take your positions and stand firm." What does it mean to stand firm? It means to have a mental attitude of quiet confidence, it means we are to “Be Still and know that He is God”.

We can stand firm on two things:
   The character of God. He's faithful. He does not bring us this far just to let us down.

   The truth of his Word. God's Word is faithful. You can count on the promises found in the Bible.

Friends we are anxious for far too many things… ALL that was needed was “one thing”, and that one thing it to know and love Jesus as our Saviour and Lord.
Manel anty knew even in the darkest days of her life as she sat on a chair as she lay on her pillow, as she pondered her predicament … she knew that the Lord Jesus was her Lord and God.

This evening, lets make a fresh commitment to strengthen the love, the relationship and trust we have with our creator God, our Savior and Redeemer.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Goodbye Ammi (Mum)!

When mum was diagnosed with oral cancer in May 2014 we were unconsciously bracing for the fact that this was the beginning of the end.  What we weren’t prepared for was that she would leave us so soon.  I was on my way to see her one last time but she passed away while I was in transit in Singapore.  I believe she heard my voice though, as my sister who was with her in hospital told me she closed her eyes for the last time, minutes after i said “I love you mum”  This is my eulogy, delivered at the Methodist Church Mt Lavinia at her funeral service.

I thank you for joining us here today to celebrate and reflect on the life of our dear Ammi.  She will always be remembered in our hearts as a devoted wife, loving mother, generous mother in law, a cherished grandmother, a caring sister, a favourite auntie and a faithful friend.  She touched the lives of many people from all walks of life and she was a person who was truly loved by all those whose lives she touched.  Ammi enjoyed a rich and wonderful Life full of love & laughter, worship & friendship, music & song and travel & discovery.   It has been a fun filled journey of 82 energetic years with the random speed hump along the way that occasionally made her slow down but never made her stop.

Ammi built an amazing Community of people around her from all walks of life and many cultures.  She gave of herself and her time generously and her friends and family gave it all back to her.  You shared the fun times and rallied around her at her time of deepest need. I thank you all what you meant to her.  You know who you are and the part you played in her life.  It is always dangerous to mention names but it will be remiss of me if I didn’t.

Ramani –Ammi and Thaththi always referred to you as their third child and we are truly grateful for the constant love, support and care that you and Ajith gave Ammi during this difficult time, despite the constraints in your own life.  We are also grateful that you have always being there for her as a sounding board after we left.  She was truly a part of your family and especially enjoyed being included in all the
family trips you organised.  You didn’t just care for her physical health but also for her mental, emotional and spiritual health and for that Nangi and I are truly grateful. 

Audrey Aunty, I know how devastating it was for you to see Ammi ill.  Thanks so much for the comfort you gave her during these last few months, but also for the lifetime of memories you amassed together.  Nobody else has shared all 82 of her years and in such a close fashion.  Priyan & Shanthi, Nimali & Lalith, special thanks to you guys as well –for stepping in for doctors appointments, for popping in to see Ammi on a regular basis and for being there as backup when she needed it.  Nangi and I could rest easy at night, knowing that you were all there - just a phone call away.

We are also deeply thankful to the Church Community where Ammi and Thaththi worshiped for more than 50 years.  Your constant prayers and Sandra, the updates you circulated on her condition every day at 11 throughout her illness, uplifted her and gave her strength.  Your friendship and encouragement gave her hope and her role in this community gave her a purpose in life.

The friendships she made here were an integral part of our childhood.  As kids, the aunties in the MWF - Miriam & Irma, Daphne & Ira together with Nirmali and Osadhi were part of our extended family.  I still remember going for movies together and being completely embarrassed by the rustle of the siri siri bags as the aunties pulled out the patties and cutlets they had smuggled in.  Ammi has now built many more close friendships in this community and I know you will all miss her dearly. She was the live wire in the Young at Heart club, the graphic designer for the church magazine, the keeper of finance records, the regular visitor to the Elders Home and a leader who set an example. She had a deep abiding faith that helped her deal with her illness without complaint or question and enabled her to transition from this life to the next in peace and gratitude.

I also want to make special mention of the role that Ari and Leela played in Ammi’s life.  They came into her life shortly after Thaththi’s passing when she found herself alone for the first time.  Never one to complain about her lot in life, she created a new family unit with these two people who became part of her community and would be of great assistance to her – one as her driver and the other as her cook.  They too loved Ammi dearly and have not stopped letting us know what a kind, and generous lady she was not just to them, but to their families and the people in their respective villages. 

A special thank you to all the doctors that cared for Ammi during her life, many of whom are part of our extended family.  Thank you for your care, advice, and reassurance. 

But what of her story:

Friendship has been one of the cornerstones of Ammi’s life.  She was a student at Holy Family Convent and some of her oldest friends are the girls she went to school with, and with whom she shared a wonderful camaraderie that has lasted from their pre-teens to their eighties.  As kids, we remember that Ammi never missed an old girls reunion at her alma mater.  She was an arts student and a good athlete and after leaving school worked as a librarian and netball coach before she got married and settled down to being a full time wife and later a mother.

Ammi and Thaththi married in 1958.  It was an arranged marriage in the sense that they were introduced by well meaning friends.  I remember she told me she fell in love with Thaththi as they were watching the movie ‘Bridge over the River Kwai’.  Seeya was a very conservative man and had wanted to send a chaperone along but my dad had his way and the chaperone stayed home.  A few months after they met, Thaththi won a scholarship to Stanford to do post grad work in International Law.  They hardly knew each other when they married 3 months after that first introduction and she took off with this perfect stranger to a far away land.

Ammi often said that year was one of the best years of their life together.  It was a wonderful carefree time, away from both families, with complete freedom to explore the world and discover each other.  I remember her telling me later - to cleave you must leave.  I recall stories of them camping in Yosemite; buying their first car in California; making friends with the expat community; and their first little home in Palo Alto.  There were funny stories too—like the time she asked the Methodist Minister who dropped in to visit if he would like a beer—not realising the Methodist have different rules to the Anglicans! 

To have an opportunity to travel to the US in 1958 would have been pretty special but they didn’t stop there.  They saved enough to then go explore Europe and Egypt.  They ran out of money in Holland; ran into a spot of bother on the autobahn; and were almost thrown out of a hotel in Dublin when the check in clerk realised that the De Silva’s were not Portuguese but some darkies from Sri Lanka.  The world was a different place in 1958 but they were having the time of their lives, crafting that first chapter together. 

As kids, Nangi and I heard many stories of those idyllic years in far-flung places.  They were my favourite fairy tales and are partly to blame for igniting my infection with the travel bug!  I could never have imagined then, that when I was in my twenties I would follow in their footsteps to do my own post grad work at UC Berkeley – Stanford’s great rival.  When they visited me 30 years after that original journey, we discovered many of their old haunts together and met friends Ammi had lost touch with in the Palo Alto church where they had worshipped.

After they came back from Stanford, Thaththi and Ammi started their life at #32 - in the house my grandfather gifted to them.  Four years after they married, on the 4th of Feb, 1962 I disrupted their peaceful world and about 2 years later Nangi was born.  Ammi was a born mother and she took to her new role like a duck to water.  Nangi and I just adored her.  She was so much fun to be with and had so many varied interests and passions that we were spoilt for choice.  As kids, we cherry picked the ones that rang true for us and they couldn’t have been more different.  Much later in life, Ammi once said to me, “how could you & Nangi be two peas from one pod?”!   

One of my earliest memories of Ammi is of her teaching me to play table tennis on our dining table in the old house.  I was born a tomboy and inherited her love of sport, which for me would later transition to a love for the great outdoors.  As I grew older, we set out a badminton court on our driveway and played many competitive matches.  When I was about 10, they got me a bike for Christmas and Ammi taught me to how to ride even though she herself had never done so!

Nangi on the other hand related to Ammi’s feminine qualities and shared her passion for fashion, food, cooking and entertaining.  She helped Ammi host fun filled dinner parties that were executed to perfection after Thaththi had scrutinised the menu and made a few amendments.  Food, fireworks,laughter and sing alongs were the magic ingredients of those gatherings. She always had special treats for us when we came home, tired and hungry from school.  String hopper buriyanis, dough nuts dusted with icing sugar, home baked cakes.  If I close my eyes I can still taste the raw cake mixture that Nangi and I licked off the mixing bowl.  I can hear her cheerful, happy voice singing along to the golden oldies as I walk in to the kitchen and ask – “What’s for dinner Ammi”?. 

Our home was always an open door and Ammi loved playing mum to all our friends who were made to feel welcome and always left well fed.  Family was a really important part of her life.  We were lucky to grow up next door to Audrey Aunty and her family and the rest of our cousins were not far away.  We all grew up as one big family, sharing the camaraderie of our early lives, celebrating birthdays and Christmases, holidays and Royal Thomian matches.   Ammi had a heart of gold when it came to caring for others.  Whether it was a donation for a good cause, gifts to the family or to the many domestics who always seemed to beat a path to her door.  She never stopped giving.

My cousins, Nangi and I held the Perera genes accountable for many things. From our gammy knees to our good looks; our imaginary Portuguese
ancestor who passed on the travel-bug gene; my inability to remember names and faces; our loud personalities—we credited the Perera’s for all these traits.  In fact my dad—a quiet man by comparison—affectionately referred to us as the 3 barbarians and would often complain he could hear us in his chambers next door, while trying to engage in consultations with important clients

Despite the oceans that separated us, I feel incredibly lucky that I could share my passion for travel and discovery with Ammi.  She was always game for anything and not afraid to live life a little dangerously.  We roughed it on 10-hour bus rides in Thailand with locals who didn’t speak a word of English, we walked the crookedest street together in San Francisco, slept on the floor in basic hotels in South Korea, built a snowman in NY and sipped wine under the stars in the Red Centre.  More recently we discovered the hidden gems of Sri Lanka –Jeep safaris in National Parks and road trips that criss crossed the country.  One of my last adventures with Ammi was whale watching last Christmas.  She was a little wobbly but she hopped on the boat and we had a whale of a time.  Ammi also had the opportunity to spend time with Steven, to get to know the things that make him tick and to be at peace in the knowledge that I have found my soul mate for the next stage of my life. 

One of Ammi’s biggest roles was the part she played in Thaththi’s life.  He had the freedom to pursue his destiny not just because she kept the homes fires burning, but because she was the woman behind his successful career.  We will always remember her fingers flying across the typewriter keys in the old days as she stayed burned the midnight oil, typing draft after re draft.  She was by his side as he travelled from his early days as an unknown lawyer in the Attorney General’s department to his career highs as adviser to many Prime Ministers and Presidents and later as Ambassador to the United Nations in NY.  

After I and then Nangi left home, now more than 25 years ago, they would take a few months off their busy lives each year to visit with us, initially doing round trips between California and Australia.  Then, after I moved to Sydney, coming to Australia for the 3 months of summer, so we could enjoy a family Christmas together.  Nowhere was too far to find ways to make memories.  Of course both Ammi and Thaththi adored their grand kids and Ammi came to Sydney to be with Nangi for the births of Sanjeev, Rajeev and Krishan.  She was very proud of their achievements and I know very grateful that despite the distance both she and Thaththi were able to watch them grow and become such wonderful young men.  They were lucky to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary before Thaththi passed away and they marked that milestone by quietly gifting a house to a family displaced by the Tsunami.

I am so thankful for Ammi’s life, and for her guiding hand in mine.  She didn’t just teach me to aim high and to dare to dream but she supported those
dreams and gave me the freedom and ability to chase them.  She made sure I had the skills to fly away when the time was right.  She was always proud of what I achieved but especially so when I pursued my love for public speaking, travel, photography and writing.  Despite any fears she might have harboured as I travelled the globe for a year on my own, she was quietly proud of her achievement in raising a daughter with the ability to do so.  She shared in each and every one of those journeys by reading my blog posts, trolling through my photos on FB and making sure we caught up at least once a week on Skype.  For a lady of her generation, I was proud of her ability to keep abreast of technological changes.  The internet and the software packages she taught herself gave her access to another world, kept us connected and entertained her for hours.

When I look back at the life we shared together I have nothing but happy thoughts.  Despite living apart for more than 27 years, we had an incredible connection.  I shared all my dreams with Ammi and she was always in tune with the highs and lows of my life.  There has rarely been a year when we did not discover something new together.  Those memories will sustain me.   If someone asked me what did your parents give you I would say:  My father taught me how to think laterally; My mother taught me how to live life with passion.  Thanks to them my bucket list is as interesting as my reading list! 

Ammi, It will be hard to not be able to Skype you, the next time I have some exciting news to share.  Yet, I believe we will always stay connected.  I will have many imaginary conversations with you with a smile on my face and a tear in my eye.  You always loved the sound of my laughter and I will imagine that sound waves will still carry it to you. 

You will continue to live in the space you carved out for yourself in my heart a long time ago --the sort of space that only a mother can carve.  Ammi I love you.  Thank you for always accepting me just the way I am, for respecting the choices I made, for always bringing out the best in me and for loving me for who I am.  Thank you for walking beside me for more than half a century.  When we reconnect, we will share more laughter; and you will hear the rest of my story and it will be magic.

Rest in Peace.  Your work here is done.