The Holy Bible says: "The wages of sin is death, the present given by God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord`85 Alive or dead we belong to the Lord. Christ both died and came to life, to be the Lord both of the dead and of the living" (Romans 6.23, 14.8-9).
Today the Church commemorates Lazarus Saturday, when Christ brought to life the dead man Lazarus. Appropriately, we too meet together today not so much to mourn Siri, but to celebrate Siris life. Grieve we will, but we also thank God for every remembrance of him and for having had the opportunity to have known and loved him.
Each of us have known Siri in a variety of ways and in a variety of circumstances, but each of us have grown in wonder, in the words of Oliver Goldsmith, how one small head could carry all that he knew. He had not only a knowledge of varied subjects but each subject he knew in great depth. How he could have had such a picture book memory in depth is something we will, all in our different spheres, wonder. To us his family and neighbours, we did not have to browse the internet- we had Siri.
I have known Siri all my life, because I was a second cousin. But it is after I married his niece and he became my Maama that I really came to know and love this wonderful person.
His first love was of course Microbiology and Medicine, and in medicine particularly skin diseases. His students, and for that matter all of us know, with what a fund of knowledge he answered a question on Microbiology - it was never a short answer, it was a detailed lecture given with love about germs. Indeed, he hated germs and did every possible thing to combat germs in a rational way - not the use of wide spectrum antibiotics that the medical practitioner of today is prone to do with a faith in luck by chance! Most of the younger Microbiologists in Sri Lanka have been trained by Sirimal, and he has literally hundreds of published papers on original research to his credit.
Yes, Maama was a rationalist in being a true scientist and seeker of the truth. He weighed the pros and cons of every problem in a scientific way, considering every possible complication, and arrived at an objective answer. It is in this way, even in matters of religion that he came to rational conclusions. He believed in God, and indeed accepted my healing from cancer as a miracle, weighing the arguments for and against such a conclusion. He did not make an exhibition of his religious beliefs, but has been often in this very Cathedral alone in prayer with his God.
Maama was a lover and conservationist of wildlife to the core. The crowning glory of his life was his recent visit to the African jungles. He was disappointed that he could not see tiger in India. When he visited me in Seychelles he identified every bird by its twitter. I just could not fathom how every morning when we enjoy the twitter of birds, he was able to identify each and every bird both by its common name and its zoological name. He was a pioneer in turtle conservation which he started 25 years ago, and was responsible for tagging turtles to identify them when they return to the same coast to lay its eggs. His articles on wildlife were like medical articles, thoroughly researched and scientific.
He was a historian in its true sense and knew the histories of different countries in depth and compared periods in different parts of the world. He would go to lengths about Egyptology and Sinology and also the new archeological finds in different places, including Australia. I once remarked to my wife that his detailed discourse on Egyptology over a drink one evening must have been a result of his reading the previous evening. But I later found that he repeated his knowledge several times, several months later. Sri Lankas history was his special love, and the reason he came back to serve his people after a sojourn in the USA and Australia. It was a treat to listen to him rattling off the names and periods of kings and dynasties of Sri Lanka with various stories associated with them.
And because of this intense love of Sri Lanka and its history, Maama was a true nationalist - never a racist nor a chauvinist. One day we were singing English songs at a Karaoke place, and Maama decried our lack of national fervor, and burst into "Danno Budhunge".
He had a wide circle of friends and he loved life. His best friends remained his very dear class of 49 at Royal College, who had all come to the top of their professions. There were also those close friends at the SSC, Kinross, Kurunegala Upper Club etc. He amassed many other dear friends from different spheres of activity and treated those in the lower rungs of society and social rejects as his equals. He was a true socialist in that sense. All his friends enjoyed that quiet humour of his, sometimes with even biting sarcasm, given with a small smile at the corner of his lips but based on deep history, culture and science. It was not easy to repartee with him.
His interests in sports never faded from his javelin throwing days at the Public Schools Meet - and his commentaries on a variety of sports was with scientific analysis and with in depth knowledge.
And so we celebrate Maamas life. We may now deny that his death is a reality. We will be angry that a man with such a full life should have been felled due to scientific investigations. We will bargain that if another course of action was resorted to he would be in our midst today. Some of us will be depressed that he is no longer in our company, sharing that wide knowledge. Many of us will go through these stages of psychological grieving, but ultimately we will not grieve, we will only thank God that Maama lived a full life, and lived it well and with variety, sharing it with many others, in the footsteps of the Lord Jesus Christ who said: "I have come to give life, and to give it abundantly". Without sounding sacrilegious I would say that Maama was like Jesus, a friend of all, a friend of his subordinate technologists, a friend of the social rejects, a friend of sinners-for he knew that the grace or happiness of God was for the sinners and rejects and all who seek and admit the truth.
To Aunty Ranganie, Ruvani, Jacques and Raki the message is to remember his
full and extraordinary life, and his love for you and his quiet pride and joy in you, and
celebrate Maamas life. Do not grieve for he is having a richer life, at peace with
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