In honour of past Trinitians
We are, all of us, gathered here this morning, bonded together by our Trinity tie to pay tribute to the memory of those fellow Trinitians who passed away since we last met here a year ago. We are here to wrap them up in their Trinity blazer with the red, gold and blue in their view wherever they may be - for they honoured yet the rule we knew at Trinity till that last bell call.
We meet also appropriately in the Trinity Chapel - this stupendous architectural creation born of Fraser’s inspired determination and Gaster’s unique vision of a place of worship for the faith of Trinity’s founders built in the vernacular idiom. The Eurasian Christian David Paynter’s murals of Biblical scenes in a Sri Lankan setting painstakingly and lovingly restored by the gentle Stanley Kirinde, the Kandyan Buddhist, extends the themes of understanding, fusion and synergy. This Chapel truly symbolizes the ethos of Trinity - its roots in the indigenous traditions of Sri Lanka, its dedication to the development of the total personality of those who pass through it intellectually, spiritually and physically and its open-ness to the bracing winds of diversity and change. Did not Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi say famously "I do not want my house to be walled in on all sides and my windows to be stuffed. I want the cultures of all the lands to be blown about my house as freely as possible. But I refuse to be blown off my feet by any."? Few Trinitians have been blown off the pedestal of values that the school built for them.
This house of worship is What Trinity is - an oasis of robust values for all seasons. Those who pass through its portals cannot but be touched by the experience and emerge better men for it - men equipped to mould and enrich, our nation in every walk of life. The Trinity Prizes that we awarded last evening to so many distinguished sons of Trinity are the tip of the iceberg of Trinity’s contribution to our society and our nation. Many have passed on unsung and unhonoured. But they have served Sri Lanka and have done Trinity proud.
The four religious traditions that nurture our land and its people have their own teachings on death and its aftermath. Some believe in a cycle of reincarnation and rebirth determined by karmic forces until a state of total release from suffering. Others believe in different forms of life after death. Whatever these differences may be the importance of the quality of our lives while on earth is given equal imortance in all religions. How we live our lives and the extent to which we have served our fellow human beings are litmus tests. And so it is right that we celebrate the lives of those whose memory we honour today. It is a thanksgiving and a transference of merit to ensure that they rest in peace. It is a celebration of lives lived to the full by men of integrity who were our school-mates moulded of the same clay as us and influenced by the traditions of Trinity as we are.
We are not here to mourn in sepulchral tones but to be joyously grateful for the lives of our dear fellow Trinitians - role models for future Trinitians in the way they lived up to the ideals they were first taught here ‘where river, lake and mountain meet Our boyhood home surrounding’ I would like to recall the brief lines from Joyce Grenfell’s poem which were quoted, most fittingly, at the Memorial Service for Gordon Burrows by his parish priest at the Farnham Church in Surrey - "If I should go before the rest of you.
Break not a flower nor inscribe a stone,
Nor, when I am gone, speak in a Sunday voice,
But be the usual selves that I have known.
Weep if you must; parting is hell,
But life goes on, so sing as well."
A similar approach to death is reflected in the lines of Rabindranath Tagore who visited Trinity in 1922. Let me quote them -
"Farewell, farewell my friend.
I smile and bid you goodbye.
No, shed no tears for I need them not.
All I need is your smile. If you feel sad do think of me for that’s what I’ll like.
When you live in the hearts of those you love.
Remember then, you never die."
Old Trinitians, like old soldiers, never die. They live forever in the hearts and minds of the Trinitians who come after them.