It’s been a year since Thaththa passed away in to the Lord’s arms peacefully on February 9, 2020, after quite a lengthy illness. He breathed his last in the presence of my mother and my two younger brothers in our home where he shared the last ten years of life with my mother. They were married for 47 years at the time of his demise.
My father hailed from the town of Maggona, a coastal village in the Kalutara District. His father Sam Fernando was the choir master of the St. Mary’s Church Maggona and as was the tradition my father replaced him after Grandpa retired. I still remember standing next to him with my brother during Sunday masses where we would stealthily poke a finger on one of the keys, most of the times at either end of the key board and ruin the melody much to the ire of my father. Yet, he was too much a master in the art that he would patch the disruption and continue with the melodious catholic hymns, most of which had been composed by the late Fr. Marceline Jayakody , when he was at the Parish of Maggona, at the time my Grandfather was the choir master of the church.
Thaththa started his life as a photographer and then moved in to the import export trade with some of the leading commercial names in the country. He had worked for many leading firms. I still remember when he was working in a biscuit manufactory, how he used to bring biscuits which had been damaged in production, only in terms of shape, but not in quality, so that they could not be marketed. My younger brother and I (the third one or ‘baba’ as he later came to be known, was born around that time) would eagerly await these goodies and devour them when thaththa came home.
Thaththa was the eldest of his family with two younger sisters, one of whom became my godmother. I still remember those times when as small children we went to my Grandma’s house which was at Moratuwa during Christmas time. Thaththa was a part of all that celebration and merry making. During Christmas time, in the mid-80s when we were at the beautiful village of Wadduwa, we would make the manger for the Baby Jesus and thaththa would add innovativeness to the crib set. Once when I was in grade 2 he made a manger hanging from the roof, to the bewildered joy from me and my brothers. Another time as our crib set, the statues symbolizing the nativity scene, was running out of figures, thaththa did some marvelous work with cardboard and drew them, and fixed a stand so the figures would stand. Christmas time made the young boy in him come out and revel in the warmth of the season.
Thaththa was a very light-hearted person; even in matters of enormous seriousness, thaththa remained jovial and sometimes, much to the irk of my mother, would not miss the opportunity to tell a joke to light up the moment. Yet he always knew the value of education and took every step within his capacity to educate the three of us. I still remember how thaththa took the pains to get me in to Law College. One day, after I had finished my A/Ls and playing cricket with my pals in the street, at our place in Nugegoda, I saw thaththa was going to take a bus in the afternoon and asked him where he was bound to. Then he said, quite unamused, that it was the last day of calling of applications for the Law Entrance exam. Of course, I went back to my cricket with my playmates in the street and forgot all about Law College that afternoon. It was my father’s enthusiasm that somehow ended up in my entering Law College and coming to the position that I am today. Even when it came to my brothers, he would not spare the effort and the trouble of accompanying them on their many educational errands.
Thaththa had his ups and downs in life. Many were the missed opportunities that would have taken him a long way. But there was no denying the fact that he was a good soul with a heart of a little child. He was not the angry, grumbling or vicious type; nor was he the conniving and scheming type, who usually makes it to the top. He was as light-hearted as a feather and kind-hearted. Nobody could take that away from him. He was always willing to help his three sons and never spared any effort. Even his grandchildren, I am sure, benefited from his helpful hand and benevolent soul.
I still wear the coat that my father got made when I became an Attorney, from a popular tailoring mart, in Pettah, at that time that was one of the best places around way back in 1999. Now that he is no more, every morning as I put it on to do my official duties, I take one deep breath and I smell the fragrance of my Father. The Fragrance of a good, kind-hearted and benevolent soul.
We are so sad that you are not among us, Thaththe. We are going to miss you more as time passes by. But I know you are in the presence of our Lord, where you always wanted to be and I know where you will be at home. That is our eternal home and one day, I know we all are going to be there, with you.
Till then, love you thaththa! Thank you for everything!!
Sing on, thaththa, your melodious tunes for our Lord!