In appreciation of a dear father
His pursuit was being ‘true to self’
“To thine own self be true, and it must follow, as night the day. Thou canst not then be false to any man” … a somewhat serious quote from Shakespeare penned on my teenage autograph book over 27 years ago by my father stands out from amongst the triviality of wishes from my friends.
Though I can’t quite recall my reactions then, I am sure that as a 13 year-old, the thoughts he penned down would have been rather alien to me. Yet, whilst the words may have been difficult to appreciate and grasp, looking back over the years the exemplification of those thoughts day in and day out over the past 40 years I saw in the life of my father, have no doubt left an impression on me, and spurred me on to try to be true to myself. Reflecting my father’s pilgrimage on earth spanning just under 83 years (he would have celebrated his 83rd birthday on March 17) I am sure those who associated with him at all levels, through the many diverse spheres of life and office he held would agree with me that he was forthright in what he had to say and that he was equally consistent in his views whether on Church, State or Nation.
Many were the times my mother used to cringe at annual general meetings of the church parish when he stood up to speak, because one was sure he would ruffle a few feathers in his pursuit of being “true to self”. Many were the times he would moan about the breakdown of law and order and the sheer unauthentic wheeling and dealing of the present-day political environment. Whilst he despised untruth and falsehood, he often took on himself the task of bringing awareness to such situations. He was a great contributor to newspapers on many topics from his experiences in the university to the public sector to the ugly play of politics on all fronts in the country. He was one who believed in “getting things off his chest” with a view to restoring broken or strained relationships and moving on in life.
I hope I have not conjured up an image of a stern arrogant man, for my father was very far from that. Whilst he was in stature and size small-made, he had a kind and compassionate heart that found it difficult not to be generous, be it with his time, energy or money, so much so that many a person who visits our home to seek help laments his demise, as his generosity in response to their many needy “stories” probably far exceeded ours. Today, just over four months since his demise, our family has very fond and dear memories of a father, husband, father-in-law and grandfather we are all grateful to have known, experienced and learned from.
Having lost both his parents by the time he was 14, life as a youngster from what we have heard (I am sure this will bring a smile to many of my cousins and family who had to listen to his stories many times over!!) was no doubt trying and difficult. However, the journey of life undertaken with vigour and passion and lived to the fullest is amazing. Although he began working as a bank clerk soon after finishing his school career he was able through the generosity of one of his uncles whom he used to often remember with love and gratitude to go back to studies, and complete his degree in Agriculture from the University of Peradeniya. He went on to get his Ph.D (hence often affectionately referred to as Dr.) from Hawaii and made significant contributions to paddy and rice research in the country.
Throughout his youth and career, his strong faith and belief in his creator God gave him the strength and resolve to “be true to himself” and not be “false to any man”. As a result of his work in the sphere of agriculture, most of his working life was spent outstation, away from the family and yet the strong influence he had on both my brothers and myself is only evidence of the strength of his character. Looking back, I am grateful to God for his life and the impact it has had on us and on the greater community he served. It is also heartening that post retirement, he had as many years as his working life to spend at home with my mother, us and the grandchildren, after not having that privilege as a young father.
The challenges that we face today are probably significantly greater than those he faced, my elder brother, an academic in the university system and my other brother and myself in the bustle of the corporate world. Whilst the world applauds the “end” irrespective of the “means”, we are fortunate to have learned right through life even as children, the importance of the “means” in reaching the “end”, through the life example of our father God placed in our lives and through the word of God the father, that our dear father placed in our hearts.
I hope that as we all journey on in our lives that we will leave a similar legacy to our children.. a legacy we will, no doubt, preach but more importantly one I hope that we will have the courage to live by, not just once in a while but everyday in each and every circumstance of life.