Attempting to write an appreciation of Patrick Gunawardena who was called to his rest on Sept. 16th, I found it difficult to decide where to start, so I thought it might be easier trying to pick his faults.
Patrick was extravagant to a fault in his charitable indulgences so much so that people around him thought he was endowed with enormous wealth. But Patrick was not extraordinarily wealthy. What was extraordinary in him was the richness in him to share whatever he had in equal measure with his fellow beings, especially the less fortunates often depriving himself and his wife Phoebe of better comforts they would otherwise have enjoyed. This also attracted exploiters who came to him with sob stories.
Always spotlessly clad and with a quiet disposition, Patrick Gunawardena carried the countenance of a strict school principal. But within him was a very kind hearted gentleman who was ever ready to enjoy the frolics in life.
Listing his generous contributions to the Church of St. John the Baptist, Gampaha where he worshipped and to those in need, would run into volumes and yet leave so much unsaid. Suffice me to say that the contributions of his time and attention that he meticulously devoted as a Church Warden and Church Secretary were even more useful than the largess in cash and kind he contributed. More important than all this was the example he set. His normal life was an embodiment of the teachings of Jesus Christ our Saviour. All this was effortless to him because it was in his nature. Patricks example has been followed to a large extent by his wife Phoebe and children, Patricia, Gamini and Dilini and his grandchildren, Imara and Pressie who we have had the good fortune to know.
The following words spoken by Mrs. Zena Senaviratne at Patricks funeral service on behalf of the Mothers Union of the Church of St. John the Baptist, Gampaha, paraphrases the consensus of the parishioners of the Church at which he so faithfully worshipped:
"May the words of my mouth and the meditation of our hearts be acceptable in thy sight Oh! Lord. - All of us have faced losses in various ways. Just now we all feel that Death is the greatest loss to be reckoned with. We have gathered here from all walks of lives, with different beliefs and faiths, for one purpose - to bid farewell to Mr. Patrick Gunawardene, a dear friend, respected principal, a loving and caring brother, an indulging grand-father who enjoyed his right to spoil them, a father who instilled correct values in his children, and a devoted husband.
We, the members of the Mothers Union of this Church, have chosen this moment to pay a simple tribute to Mr. Patrick Gunawardena, not because he was the husband of Phoebe own Enrolling Member for several years, but because he taught us, by example, true faithfullness and obedience to God, our Heavenly Father.
Patrick was the most Wanted Gentleman of our parish. He was a Gentleman to his toes. We looked up to him for advice and guidance in every situation. Those who followed his advice had no regrets.
When I informed a mother of a teenage daughter that Patrick had gone to his rest with Jesus, she said in Sinhala "Aunty I have been coming to this Church since far back as I can remember. Since that time I remember Uncle Patrick coming to this Church. It was very rarely that he missed a Church service. The emptiness we felt on such days will now be felt forever and I cannot imagine how we could get over this loss." - Yes we will all miss Patrick.
He was gentle, meek and mild.
He was merciful.
He was pure in heart.
He was a peacemaker.
He comforted those who mourned.
He satisfied those who were hungry and thirsty.
The kindness of Jesus Christ radiated through him not only to his family, household and the parishioners of this Church, but also to all those who knew him.
Religious dignitaries, leaders of the country, and the humble villagers, lined up to pay their respects to the mortal remains of Patrick during the past few days.
Phoebe, Patricia and Ranjit, Gamini and Sue, Dilini and Brian, Imara and Chirag, Pressie and little Bradley, at this time of great sadness you can be consoled that Patrick is rewarded in Heaven. He brought nothing. He takes nothing. But he was chosen to lead us to Heaven from this cruel world. He has successfully fulfilled the tasks laid out for him by His Maker and left an indelible mark on the lives of many, many people. Some of us are here today, others are not here only because they are fulfilling their duties far away in the war torn areas, in the war front and in other lands.
May God grant us all, especially Phoebe and her children and grand children, the strength and wisdom to fill the void made by Patricks separation from us. Amen"
May the soul of Patrick Gunewardena rest in peace.
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