Like a Phoenix she rose from the ashes of despair to soar

16 February 2019 12:56 am - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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‘I am going to a city where roses never fade’ and ‘Heaven is a wonderful place’…..sang the angelic voices in beautiful harmony, almost persuading the earthly beings present of an invitation to that divine mansion! The ethereal vocal sounds filled the parlour, wafting through the air to the gentle strumming of a guitar at the funeral of Fidelia Irene Padmawathi de Silva. These little girls who also paid tearful tributes gratefully to their wonderful ‘Grandma’ so eloquently were the products of ‘Footprints’, a foster home aptly named and founded by Fidelia some years ago. Her passion to nurture, educate the young marginalized and impoverished to give them a head start was evident in the accomplishments of these young foster children in singing and the eloquence which was indeed a testimony to her.  

 

Fidelia or Delia as she was fondly known was my father’s adorable cousin and a much loved aunt to all her nieces and nephews in a close knit extended family unit. She passed away peacefully a few weeks ago at the ripe old age of almost 98 years. She was a deeply spiritual woman and her memory was remarkable unto the end

 

Fidelia or Delia as she was fondly known was my father’s adorable cousin and a much loved aunt to all her nieces and nephews in a close knit extended family unit. She passed away peacefully a few weeks ago at the ripe old age of almost 98 years. She was a deeply spiritual woman and her memory was remarkable unto the end enabling her to do what she loved most; ‘Praying’ and praying faithfully and regularly for ‘bloodlines’ with her much loved nephew Rathika. She led an exemplary and purpose driven life and like her name ‘Fidelia’ she was supremely ‘faithful’ to her Maker and the ripple effects of her faithfulness filtered to the community at large as a great blessing.  


Delia, the grand old dame was the matriarch of an eminent and distinguished family clan hailing from Kalahe a charming hamlet in Galle lined with rows of verdant paddy fields in the precincts of Unawatuna with its beautiful beaches where Delia spent a happy childhood growing up fielding a cricket team of siblings. She was raised in a staunch Methodist family and the quaint Methodist church, in her village Kalahe, built by her Samarawickrema ancestors where she worshiped while growing up were one of her many benefactors of her generosity. Delia was always drawn to Kalahe like a magnet; her childhood experiences, memories and the love of family at Rockhill Estate made her gravitate to her roots at all times and she was thrilled to be visiting the ancestral home in later years until it was no longer possible for her to travel.  

 

Delia was always drawn to Kalahe like a magnet; her childhood experiences, memories and the love of family at Rockhill Estate made her gravitate to her roots at all times and she was thrilled to be visiting the ancestral home in later years until it was no longer possible for her to travel

 

Delia was the eldest of 11 children born to Mr. and Mrs. Felix David Lionel De Alwis who were landed gentry and lived in the sprawling Manor ‘Rockhill’ on a rambling and salubrious estate in Kalahe. She was educated at Southlands College, Galle during ‘British Ceylon’ under the Wesleyan Missionaries and later at Methodist College in Colombo where she excelled in her studies to pursue a career in teaching. The tragedies that were soon to befall her were devastating and crushing when she became a widow at 21 years and her only child at the time Hemakanthi who was born soon after her husband’s death also predeceased her at the tender age of 13 from a debilitating disease. Delia also bore the pain of losing two of her younger brothers; Luke at two years in a drowning accident and Denzil at twenty one to Typhoid whilst he was flourishing as an Assistant Superintendent at an Estate in Mathugama. The relentless grief and pain that consumed a young woman was beyond measure but like a phoenix she rose from the ashes of despair to soar and re built an extraordinary life of service and duty to leave a legacy of love, kindness and compassion; her indelible ‘footprints’ in the sand of time.Delia moved on from her teaching career and she gravitated to a career in social service joining the YWCA in an honorary capacity and eventually becoming its President after Mrs. George E. Chitty’s tenure. She continued in this capacity for many years for positive social change for women and girls to bring about justice and economic empowerment. She was instrumental in the spearheading of a new building for its headquarters in Union Place and further expansion and development of the YWCA at the time. She met her second husband Douglas de Silva through his mother who played cupid whilst Delia was a young widow and working tirelessly at the YWCA. Cupid’s role was soon accomplished and Dougie and Delia were married and they were blessed with two sons Dilhan and Harindra. Dougie built a successful business in the pharmaceutical industry from modest beginnings through acquisitions and diversification. He was an avid golfer, quiet and unassuming but with a great sense of humour. Delia’s young unmarried brothers in the police force were particularly close to him and often got the run of Dougie’s stylish MG sports to take their dates for a spin! I recall with much gratitude that as a young bride, Dougie’s latest addition to his fleet of cars then, got me to  church on time! Dougie pre-deceased Delia but she continued her life of service and duty right to the end. The mantle has now fallen on Dilhan and Ayoma, Harindra and Lotte with their children to continue her legacy of kindness and compassion to the destitute and disadvantaged.  


‘Assuredly, I say to you, in as much as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’ (Mat 25:40)  
Savitri de Alwis  

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