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.