Helen Jayasundera- A centenarian who makes the years count

By Franklyn Amerasinghe

Helen Jayasundera who was born in Kandy on November 1, 1911 reaches the milestone of a hundred years! Helen was born into a family of eight in Kandy, and was the daughter of Clare and Albert Amerasinghe. She was married to Tony Jayasundera and lived after marriage in Wattala. She has four daughters and a son.

A centenarian often is unable to enjoy the event as the years take their toll and the joy of the occasion cannot be savoured by the person who is the cause of the joy! So it is with Helen as well, and perhaps the celebration is more fitting as a time of reflection and learning for those around Helen - her large circle of great-grand children, grand children and children, not to mention her numerous friends.

To have her children around her at this time is the greatest blessing, and in her time of helplessness the devotion of her family, their caring and love, speak volumes for the impact she has had on her family when she was active. She was to me a human dynamo and a person who exuded self confidence and capacity which was super-human and I can only think that her present helplessness is a privilege accorded to her near and dear to reciprocate the courage and determination that Helen endowed them with.

Helen has always been a popular person and brought sunshine into the lives of others, sometimes totally ignoring her own problems and allowing the problems of others to take precedence. Her greatest asset was that she could make do with little and was never one to grumble about life’s vicissitudes but was ever cheerful and positive in her approach.

As her nephew, I was privileged to receive her affectionate, inspiring and lucid letters written in a neat fist. At times they were witty and always full of meaning. When I lost my father, Helen’s eldest brother, she insisted on staying with our family for several days, sacrificing her own work purely to help us through the time of sorrow. Overall, one hallmark of Helen was her pragmatic, wise and resourceful approach to life. We admired her neatness and the elegance she could achieve with simple and tasteful clothes.

Hospitality was something which she acquired from her mother whose house Clarendon in Hill Street, Kandy was a haven for all those trudged to the Cathedral next door; and similarly Helen was always ready for anyone who visited her and was never irritated by people who at times took undue advantage of her kindness. She, it is likely prayed in the words of Reinhold Niebuhr: “ God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference”. Of course, like the other Amerasinghes she also was capable of being candid and forthright which, was to me, a refreshing part of her sterling character. In the present context the capability of being frank is a quality which right thinking people value and welcome, and Helen had it in large measure.

Helen did much for the church and societies to which she belonged. She was a highly respected member of the community and did not hesitate to extend a hand of friendship and bonhomie to those who needed a friend.

It was unfortunate that in the last few years she has not been able to actively participate in family and other events. The test of her goodness is that in her hour of helplessness brought on by her years, she has been blessed with care and affection which many would envy. So on this momentous occasion let us thank God for his blessing us with an opportunity to know and love Helen Jayasundera.

We wish Helen a great birthday and offer her our congratulations for reaching a hundred years. No doubt her longevity is a blessing to her family since Helen’s very existence has a calming influence and serenity which inspires.

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