It was in the 1950s that I first met my good friend Frieda Silva (nee Wijeratne), who joined Ave Maria Convent, Negombo as a boarder.
I recall her wearing a black-and-white frock on the first day of school. She was probably mourning for her recently deceased mother. When her mother passed away, her father boarded all three daughters.
In class, I remember her face and hands being always smudged with ink, much to the annoyance of her sisters. This was the time we used G-nibs and inkwells in the classroom. Her two older sisters were quiet and reserved, while Frieda was lively – smiling, chatting and craving attention. She was a popular figure with both the day scholars and the boarders.
She loved beautiful clothes, and dressed in grand style all her life, right up to the last. Her photographs appeared in the fashion pages of the newspapers. One photo captioned her as “grandmother of the year” – she was still in her forties when she had her first grandchild.
She was the shooter in the school netball team, and we would head to the netball court whenever we had an opportunity.
She sang and acted, and was good at imitating others. Frieda had a lead role in every school play or concert. She loved dancing, and was familiar with both oriental and western dance.
As an adult, she played minor roles in teleplays.
She was one of the founding members of the Ave Maria Convent past pupils association, Colombo branch, which was set up 15 years ago. She was a livewire at the monthly meetings. She organised a concert by past pupils for the entertainment of the school’s current students. At the annual Christmas party, she was always Santa Claus, distributing gifts, dancing and making the day a memorable one for everyone. There was no one to play Santa Claus last year, and her friends missed her badly.
She was a pillar of strength to her family. Her husband, her only brother and one older sister predeceased her. She showed strength in her bereavement and believed in moving on in life. The poor residents of Ratmalana will miss her greatly. She was a very sympathetic and generous neighbour.
As a devout Christian, she would talk about her convent days, when going for daily mass and evening prayers was compulsory. Once she hid under a bed to avoid going to church and got caught.
She had a good memory and could recall in detail her escapades and the punishments she received. It was a joy to go down memory lane with Frieda.
When she was in hospital for bypass surgery, visitors, flowers and get-well cards filled her room. Her friends could not accept the fact that their beloved companion was ill. Frieda, we miss you. We will never forget your smile and your cheerfulness.
Your two daughters, their husbands and children and the many friends you gathered around you during your lifetime need not grieve: they should simply follow your example and be helpful and cheerful all their lives.