Beulah Perera (nee Dissanayake) Ammi, you continue to live in our hearts Writing an appreciation about your own mother subsequent to her death is both a relatively easy and sappingly difficult thing to do. Easy due to the fact the connection is so organic. For most of us it’s a familiar, shared voyage that lasts [...]

The Sundaytimes Sri Lanka



Beulah Perera (nee Dissanayake)

Ammi, you continue to live in our hearts

Writing an appreciation about your own mother subsequent to her death is both a relatively easy and sappingly difficult thing to do. Easy due to the fact the connection is so organic. For most of us it’s a familiar, shared voyage that lasts a good part of our lives. And difficult, come to think of it, for similar reasons. It’s impossible to recede very far to get a wide perspective. The narrative is deeply personal and shaped by emotions for a special person in your life.

It’s two years since our mother passed away on April 4, 2012. Following a stroke early 2009, she had been paralysed for more than three years, and finally succumbed to the complications of a fall. It took us two years to reflect, articulate and thread together her life with us to write this. Naturally, we had to wade through emotionally turbulent waters before reaching a calm shore.

Born on June 12, 1935, Ammi was the youngest in a family of five. She lost her father Newman Dissanayake as a child and was essentially brought up by her mother Rose, a teacher, along with four other siblings. She was extremely fond of the eldest of them, her brother Callistus, who died six years ago. The influence of her mother who was a teacher and the mentoring of a brother, 13 years her senior, played a role in moulding a strong willed, resilient and focused character in her. This stood her in good stead much of her life, though it was seen to ebb away in the latter stages.

Our parents married in August 1959 after a loving courtship. They came from different religious backgrounds, she a Roman Catholic and he a Buddhist. As could be expected, they encountered initial opposition to the marriage from close family. For me this multi-belief union was a platform that inculcated broad values and offered diverse experiences. Indeed, I am better off for it.
Ammi was a career woman. Beginning her working life at Walker and Greig in the ‘50s, she moved to Ceylon Tobacco Company, and was employed there for 17 years. Together, both Ammi and Thathi contributed their utmost to provide a comfortable life for the three of us, their children. But most significantly, we enjoyed lives filled with love. We were pampered. As children of the ‘sixties and early ‘seventies growing up in Sri Lanka, we enjoyed the tenderness of being dropped off at school with a kiss, experienced the childhood joy of being given gifts and birthday parties, the thrill of being fed homemade ice cream and cake, being taken on visits to friends and relatives, and accompanying our parents on many trips to lovely locations in Sri Lanka. These, and of course, countless other beautiful moments. Being the eldest of their children, my own memories are the most vivid.

In 1974, we relocated to Nairobi, Kenya when our father worked for the government. Our mother, always the strength behind our father and her children, supported us unwaveringly throughout the ten years we were stationed overseas. She continued her career as a secretary/administrator and became a financial support for the family. But that was not all. She did not rest until she got us children admitted to the best private schools in Nairobi. Overall, they gave us a good life.

Our parents always had a penchant for enjoying life in the best way under the circumstances. So it was never a life of all work and no play. Memories of both our parents evoke this fact. They socialised and entertained good friends. We went on countless safaris. Our lives became more augmented in the process and we learned to value good people. To date, I cannot think of our days in Kenya without thinking of this.

Back in Sri Lanka in 1984, our lives opened yet another chapter. My mother’s career of formal employment came to an end and she began to support my father in the construction ventures he embarked on. She extended her help to my father courageously and unwaveringly through some of the most challenging and risky periods we have encountered. In the midst of this, however, she supported her grown up children. I remember with much love how she used to wake up at 3 a.m. to type a thesis for me when I was enrolled in the MSc Architecture programme at the University of Moratuwa or to make a cup of coffee to help me work late into the night. These memories will never fade.

Our mother was a remarkable woman of many qualities — intelligent, steadfast, determined, persevering and persistent. She occupied the driving seat both literally and figuratively. But she was also witty, and we enjoyed her humour.

She was an ardent dog lover. I cannot remember a stage in our lives when we did not have a dog. In fact she reared pairs and even litters. Her gorgeous German Shepherds were prize winners at dog shows.

She was fortunate to see all three of her children marry in later years and the entire brood of grandchildren too. Both Ammi and Thathi wholeheartedly supported the career choices and professional journeys of their three children. When we had to “go through the mill”, they too, in a manner of speaking, went through it. Our parents sacrificed their own comfort for our sakes numerous times.
In 2009, my personal trajectory took my family to Australia for the second time. When Ammi suffered a stroke that year and was bedridden until her death in 2012, Thaththi dedicated his entire being to look after her. Considering he was nearly 80 at that time, it was both astounding and powerfully moving. He fed, washed, dressed and shared words of love and comfort with her. He was, and always will be, an incredible hero to us. He lights a lamp in her memory every single day and on occasions I have watched him talk to her portrait. Yet, he is an amazingly composed, strong willed and productive man at 83. Beloved parents, your legacy is simply beautiful, and always will be treasured.

Ammi, you continue to live on in our hearts. Every day, but more so on your second death anniversary our thoughts and prayers will be with you. Shali and myself, Chuti and Neranjan, Kisha and Gihan and your grandchildren Surekha, Shavin, Ishika, Sherantha, Anila and Druvi will miss you. But what’s most touching is to know that Thaththi will be at your resting place reminiscing 53 glorious years of love and life shared.

Rest in peace beloved mother!
Your loving son, Nalin


Amelia Pieris Deraniyagala

She lived to see many generations, but her life story has not ended

Today (April 27), we remember with gratitude and deep affection the birthday of a precious loved one, a wonderful mother who is now living eternally in the presence of a loving God. She was a mother not only to five children whom God gifted her with but to many others who never failed to return their love to her.

She lived to see her children, grandchildren, great grandchildren and her own parents and her grandparents too. She lived to see the history of many generations which were vivid in her mind.

She was born into a family where she was not exposed to the perils of life in her childhood years as everything seemed to fall on a platter on her lap in a comfortable living environment. But she was to see the other side of life, when her life partner was snatched away from her in death and she had to nurture a young family as a young bashful mother. It was no easy task but she was able to withstand the fiery trials which came her way as she knew that she could count on a loving God who cared and helped her when tried avenues failed. The faithfulness of the one who created her and this universe and maintains it, supported her and gave her the peace, calm and joy in breathtaking ways.

She was a winner and her victorious exploits she would share with others, so that they too could grip the anchor that never failed her. We need to grip the solid rock, and that rock is Jesus.

We may not be able to behold her on planet earth but her life’s story has not ended. Death is not the end to anyone who has put his or her trust in Jesus.

We celebrated Easter a few days back when Jesus Christ conquered death and the power of the evil forces, giving eternal new life to those who would invite him into their hearts and lives. My mother had the privilege of doing this. The blessing of eternal life is now a gift she enjoys.



Rev. Lakshman Peiris

A great minister of our time, he walked the desert journey with faith

I thank God that I was privileged to know the late Rev. Father Lakshman, follow his priestly devotion to duty, read his writings and keep in touch with him for more than 40 years. Hence I am able to say with sincere conviction that he was one of the great Christian ministers of our time.

He was a strict Bible-based Christian who hardly ever deviated from the Bible’s teaching on spiritual, moral or ethical matters. He clearly expounded in his writings and sermons the oneness of the Bible: That what Old Testament events and characters foreshadow the New Testament events and personalities confirm as the truth. He boldly proclaimed Jesus Christ as Son of God and the Saviour of the world. He was never one to believe one thing and preach another.

Though orthodox and strict in his beliefs, Father Lakshman’s heart was not narrow but large enough to embrace all Sri Lankans: Christian of every denomination, Buddhists, Hindus, even those opposed to the Church. He was a responsible and conscientious vicar in whichever parish he served in. I am sure hundreds of his parishioners and others who came into contact with him will have many stories to relate. I heard one such story from an old gentleman who was present at his funeral. While serving a remote parish, Fr. Lakshman visited the home of this man, when the man’s daughter fell ill. He was called to come and pray. By the time the prayer was over it had become dark. Fr. Lakshman humbly requested his friend to light a candle and place it in a coconut shell and give it to him so that he could return home safely. Such was his humility and zeal.

I also met two earnest women seated near his coffin for a long time. They had converted to Christianity because of the silent Christian witness and beautiful example of his life. Father Lakshman was not only a preacher of the true Gospel but was also an effective Friendship evangelist.

Another gentleman shared with others his story of how Father Lakshman came to his rescue in a severe crisis of his life. He said his daughter, a doctor, had fallen in love with another doctor who was not a Christian. The man was reluctant to accept the advice of some Christians that he should insist on the young man’s ‘artificial’ conversion to Christianity or insist they cut off the relationship. His daughter had said she would remain a spinster all her life if the father did not give her permission to marry. Meanwhile, the church to which his family had belonged for nearly 200 years flatly refused to have the wedding in the church. They insisted the wedding should be held in a common house or some other secular place. The father was in a real spiritual quandary.

So he went to the rare Protestant priest whom he knew could understand his problem and give him sound advice. On hearing his story, Father Lakshman Peiris invited the young doctor couple into his manse, gave them Christian marriage counselling for over two weeks, prayed with them and advised them, that it is not necessary to have any other wedding ceremony other than a church wedding. He also suggested where they could marry in a church. He officiated at the wedding along with another friendly senior Anglican priest. Thus a great crisis was smoothly assuaged. Now the couple attends church and their only child has been baptised.

Father Lakshman Peiris was also a loyal churchman. He was ever concerned for the welfare and the growth of the Church. In 2006 he spent three months of his sabbatical leave in Leeds, UK. He could have, if he so desired, spent a greater portion of his time relaxing and visiting the many historical sites both religious and secular in England. Instead he decided to use the short time available to him to complete a study of the weaknesses and strengths of the Anglican Churches in Britain.

He was appalled at the rate at which English churches were being closed down and sold for use for secular purposes or by other fast growing religions. He carefully studied the factors contributing to the shrinking of Christianity in the land of Wycliffe and Wesley and brought out a short booklet listing and explaining the reasons for this phenomenon. The reasons for doing so were to see whether the Church of Ceylon and other Christian denominations in Sri Lanka could benefit by the lessons learnt in Britain. The book makes interesting reading, especially his summary of a public survey in Chapter three. This could be profitable reading for Sri Lankan priests and church leaders.

He also wrote many other booklets, leaflets and magazine articles encouraging and educating Christians. He never failed in his duty to remind the faithful of their duty to study the scriptures and return to the beliefs preached by the Apostles, with Christ as the cornerstone of their faith. His wife Veronica was always there to support him in his friendship ministry with love and concern for those who visited the manse.

Fr. Lakshman lived a life glorifying the Triune God. He walked the desert journey with faith, hope and charity. Now we are sure Heaven’s Gates are wide open to him. This is one way we can remember his good work and bring comfort to all his dear friends and family members in their hour of grief.

Shirley W. Somanader

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