I still haven’t recovered from my shock after hearing of the death of this truly wonderful person. She reached out to everyone she met and was brimming over with the milk of human kindness. I had known Denis, her husband since his student days, as a favourite student of my late father’s, who fondly called him ‘Denis the Menace’! The romance between Denis and Chrissy began and blossomed during their student days when he was at the Medical College and she was an active member of the Student Christian movement at University. I first met and got to know Chrissy when she was the main organizer of childhood birthday parties of Sanjeev Gardiner, the son of Denis’s brother Cyril and Mavis. My children and I were always invited to these parties and it was Chrissy who organized everything and was the live wire.
It was during the last few decades that I became close to Chrissy and got to know her well, which was to love her and appreciate all she did for others. Her main focus all through life was her husband Denis. Her life revolved around him and his interests. She worked beside him in his dispensary in Rathmalana, took an interest in his patients, talking to each one, comforting them and advising them. She valued old traditions and would serve Denis at every meal, only sitting down to eat with him after she had done so. They were together always, showing a lifetime of devotion which is rare to see today. It was through her interest in Denis’s work that she founded the Doctors’ Wives Association in 1987. This not only helped doctors’ wives in many parts of the country get to know each other and form unbreakable ties of friendship but it also helped them reach out to people and work together in unity for the underprivileged; reaching out to people in distress, in one form or another, in many areas.
One of their regular projects was giving schoolbooks to children at the beginning of each year. Another was the distribution of dry rations for Avurudhu. She organised many Health camps and eye camps where spectacles were given out to people. After the devastation and destruction of the Tsunami disaster, again she organized teams of doctors and their wives to visit these areas and help those affected in various ways. Each year, Chrissy was the main organizer of a grand event, a fellowship evening of dinner, dancing, competitions and entertainment for doctors wives, their husbands and guests. I was often her guest at these events and she never failed to include me in these and family dinners, when her children visited from overseas. The profits from the doctors’ wives get-together and the sponsorship given by many well-known companies at her request were used for charity projects. She was an amateur playwright too and wrote many plays which were performed by doctors and their wives. Among doctors who showed their skill as actors were Denis, Dr. J.B. Peiris and Dr. Preethi Wijegoonewardene. One play I recall was an adaptation of Chekhov’s ‘The Proposal’.
She was an example and an inspiration to other doctors’ wives and to women too, showing that one could be a housewife, mother, working woman and combine all this while reaching out to those who needed help as well. Her life was a mission of mercy to the underprivileged. She was propelled by a moral imperative to relieve suffering. Chrissy’s spiritual faith was a great source of strength to her in whatever she did and when facing loss and death. She never gave up when she lost a child many decades ago and more recently, her granddaughter. This did hit her badly but didn’t hinder her path through life in reaching out to the downtrodden and those in need, remaining the epitome of unruffled efficiency in carrying out her work for others in spite of her bereavement. Chrissy was a woman who was unafraid to commit herself to a project, to express and declare her views. She didn’t simply care about something, she cared desperately. Chrissy was a woman of rare substance, with high standards and the right priorities, who believed firmly and surely in Family, God, Scholarship and Music, adhered to a rigorous work ethic, considered charity an obligation and was an exceptionally loyal wife, mother, grandmother, sister-in- law, aunt and friend. She was the wind beneath the wings to her husband and family and an unfailing inspiration to us all. May she rest in peace. I’m sure she’ll be greeted in Heaven with the words “Well done, thou good and faithful servant”. My heart grieves for a valued, loyal friend who was there for me through good times and bad.