It is three months since my only sister (elder to me and my late brother) passed away. She breathed her last on July 18, at the General Hospital, Colombo, in an atmosphere with which she was all too familiar, for she had been Vice-Principal of the Colombo Nurses’ Training School, the institution that provides the hospital with its nursing staff.
She retired in the late ’70s, after three decades of service at the training school. She was drawn to the vocation of Florence Nightingale, and not long after leaving school she enrolled as a nurse. In recognition of her dedication as a nurse, the Department of Health sent her to India and Singapore for training. She served in the same capacity at nurses’ training schools in Kandy and Ratnapura.
My sister was educated at Christ Church Girls' School, Baddegama, whose principal at the time was an English woman. The school was also privileged to have the illustrious Christian dignitary, Reverend Lakdasa de Mel. The matron in charge of the hostel was so attached to my sister that during one school vacation she visited our home and stayed overnight with us.
My sister participated in nearly all the school activities, winning prizes in art, sports and music.
She was blessed with a personality that was perfect for the office she held. She was also blessed with great natural beauty. Hers was a unique oriental beauty.
On spotting a photograph of my sister in her home, a visitor commented that hers was the kind of beauty that inspired people to break into poetry, and cited the classic maidens in the famous Sigiriya frescoes. Yes, indeed she was the flower that adorned our family.
My sister had a family of five children, two boys and three girls. Surmounting numerous difficulties, she educated them in prestigious Colombo schools – the two boys attended Royal College and Ananda College, and the three girls went to Visakha Vidyalaya.
She inherited from her parents a deep attachment to Buddhism. On all important Poya days, she observed sil – a practice she followed up to the very last. She would often visit a temple built on a plot of ancestral land donated by the family. She was generous in assisting any relation or villager who sought her guidance or help.
All these memories and more surfaced on the day of my sister’s funeral.
I try to find solace in Buddhist scripture: “Anichawatha sankhara” – impermanent are all conditioned existences.
H. S. Rajapakse