ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday, February 04, 2007
Vol. 41 - No 36

Her unassuming ways made her stand tall among her peers

~ Nanette Ilangakoon Wickremasinghe

“Much will be required of those to whom much is given” This scriptural injunction is, I believe, applicable to Nanette my best and dearest friend with whom I shared a lifelong relationship of affection, understanding and trust.

Meeting as teenagers in the common room at College House on the first day of term so many years ago, it was a rare case of instant bonding between three young people from three different backgrounds – even ethnicity – the only common denominator being their faith. It did not strike us then, but in hindsight, I realize that shared values, identity of purpose in the pursuit of our studies, and a shared perspective on how to shape our lives, helped to establish this friendship which was to last a lifetime.

It was on the strength of this association that I feel obliged to narrate the story of Nanette’s life and the manner in which she fulfilled all that was required of her as one exceptionally endowed – not merely in the matter of her distinguished lineage, but also inherent superior intellect and what’s more her extraordinary gifts of compassionate love and concern for others.

Given these endowments it was expected that she would be enmeshed in an aura of exclusivity but I could vouch for the fact that she was, in all instances unassuming and simple to the core. Precisely for this reason she stood tall among her peers and won for herself both respect and admiration.

It is meaningful to review her life (and ours) from those early days. Those were exciting times. University life had its challenges. Ragging was not unknown, but except in rare instances, carried out in gentlemanly fashion. The motive was to tease and not to hurt. And so the appellation we got The Unholy Three did not bother us much (Greenhorns that we were at the time we did not recognize the innuendo).

Our initiation into the Arts and Sciences was in the regular curriculum, but what mattered most was the transition from our adolescence, nurtured within the narrow confines of the convent schools in which we were tutored, into adulthood in the milieu of a free and open co-ed institution. We were subconsciously faced with the realization that we were solely responsible for our lives and that all our actions were subject to the closest scrutiny. Needless to say these prescriptions prepared us for the long and arduous journey of life.

After four years of study and the concomitant widening of our horizons we stepped out from the somewhat rarefied atmosphere of the University into the world of everyday existence. Choices had to be made and careers undertaken. Marriage with its total commitment was a necessity. Although Nanette had many admirers it was the unobtrusive Lyn who, deservedly won the prize. They had a happy life together and started to raise a family.

Life as we all know is never easy. Childhood illnesses, problems of psychological adjustments and the like, took its toll on Nanette’s health for a time, but she bravely overcame all these disruptions and her life became one of service not only to her own husband and children, but also to her mother and to the families of her dear siblings.

In times of illness and anxiety she cared for them as though they were her very own. I still remember the daily bulletins she sent me regarding the progress and regress of the terminal illness of one in her extended family and when the inevitable came to pass she was as distraught as the mother of the girl who could not be saved.

This same compassion she extended to friends who had insurmountable family problems, offering the shelter and comfort of her own home till the crises blew over. To me and Blossom the third member of the unholy triad, she was an unfailing source of inspiration, always accepting and upholding each other in all our strengths and weaknesses. For this is what friendship is all about – the caring and sharing in all the joys and sorrows of life.

As for herself she lived life to the full — ably supporting and guiding her two children in the educational sphere, and her husband in his daily endeavours. When Lyn reached the zenith of his career she rose to the occasion by carrying out the relevant social responsibilities with grace and charm.

But life inexorably draws to a close. When Lyn passed away she was very lonely and unable to cope. Ravi came to her rescue and persuaded her to come and live with his family in the land of their adoption. With her indomitable spirit she acceded, and began to lead a new life Down Under. What gave her true happiness was to teach and nurture her two grandchildren as only a person of her scholarship and competence could do. Suffice it that she could achieve this objective in the space of a few fruitful years. She was, in fact, fulfilling all the obligations required of one so richly endowed and she could now rest from her labours in peace and comfort. It was at this time an undreamt of illness struck bringing with it relentless anxiety and distress to her and her family. Jit and Ravi supported her with due filial love and devotion.

Our faith does not promise the absence of pain and suffering to even the best of men and women, and this pain she had to endure. This she did with courage and resignation.

Nanette had now begun her journey homewards — to the Promised Land — and so it was goodbye. You are sorely missed by all those whose lives you touched.

You have inspired us all.

By Renee

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Copyright 2007 Wijeya Newspapers Ltd.Colombo. Sri Lanka.