Tell Me The Story, Daddy!

“Tell me about Singapore,” I said.  “During the war. When you were a child.”

Dad set his fork down, a rush of memories spilling into his eyes.

raffleshotel20s
The famous Raffles hotel, Singapore,  playground of the colonial elite,  circa 1920 (Google images)
highstreet1940
High Street, Singapore in 1945, just before the outbreak of WW2 (Google images)

“My father was a radio communications officer.  He worked for the British government in Singapore …”

img_7704
I don’t remember Grandpa James who died days after my first birthday.
radioofficer
A WW2 radio communications officer (Google images)

 

 

 

 

 

 

“He was a highly intelligent man, but he had a volatile temper!  He was my hero, though it was frightening to live with someone like that.

He flew into a rage one day and struck me with the radio wires he was working with.  My mother had to apply a hot fomentation on my back for days until the marks subsided.

I don’t remember my mother ever cuddling or kissing me. But there was plenty of food. A laden table.  She was a good cook.  My father was a hospitable man. The house was always filled with people and she fed them gladly.

img_7706
James and Violet. Grandpa James was part of the diaspora of English-educated Ceylon Tamils who were wooed into coveted government posts in colonial Malaya and Singapore.  He sailed home for a brief visit  when an inter-marriage was arranged for him and his sister.  Grandpa James wedded my grandmother, Violet;  grandma Violet’s brother married Grandpa’s sister, Fanny. 
20180314_151548~2(1)
Dad’s older brother, Rigby, was born in 1935. Dad arrived thirteen months later. Granny Violet had three children during the Malaya/ Singapore years.  Dad grew up speaking Malay and Chinese.

“We lived in a sprawling home on Mount Rosie, surrounded by a large compound. I remember climbing fruit trees and playing for hours outside.”

colonialblackandwhitehouse
An old colonial home on Mount Rosie Road (circa 1940’s) which matches Dad’s description of the home he lived in as a child (Google images)
dsc_4055
Mount Rosie Road — the current street sign (Google images)

“The Japanese considered their monarch a god.  They worshipped him as such.

20190119_170629
Screaming headlines (Google images)

The West was distracted by Hitler and Stalin.  It was the perfect time for the Japanese to leap in with their own agenda.  They worked their way through the East, carving out an empire …”

 

mapofjapempire
Map of the Japanese Empire in 1942 (Google images)

“When the Japs bombed Pearl Harbour, the Americans got involved.  This was the beginning of the Pacific War.”

attackonpearlharbour
Hawaii 1941.  US Soldiers watching the explosion after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour. (Google Images)

 

“The tanks rolled into Singapore.

japtrooparrive
Japanese troops storm the shores of Singapore (Google images)

Headlines screamed.

singaporesurrendersnewsclipping
Singapore surrenders (Google images)
20190119_155731_hdr(1)
Screaming headlines (Google images)
wartimesingapore
Singapore: the newest feather in the cap of the Japanese Empire (Google images)
japsonparadesingapore
Invaders patrol Singapore streets (Google images)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was one of the worst defeats in British military history …

britishtroopssurrender
The fall of Singapore was one of  Britain’s greatest military defeats.  The 1942 battle ended with 140,00 troops and citizens of Singapore captured, wounded or killed.  Around 80,000 British, Indian and Australian troops based in Singapore became prisoners of war.
changiprisonpows
POWs in the Changi Prison, Singapore WW2 (Google images)

“Pretty much everyone was labelled a traitor.  They shipped them off to POW camps.  By the thousands.”                

signingsurrenderdocument
Singapore surrenders, 1942 (Google images) 

“So how did Grandpa survive, Dad?” I asked.

Dad’s tone was matter-of-fact. “My father worked for the Japanese,” he said.

My jaw dropped.                                  

officerwithsword
Sword held high, ready to strike.  Japanese officer, Singapore, 1940s (Google images)

“After the surrender of Singapore, the Japanese generals stood at our doorstep with drawn swords.  They threatened to cut off his head if he didn’t work for them.  There was no other option.”    

“On our way to school, we’d see rows of traitors’ heads impaled on the walls.”

bayonetpractice
POWs who were used as targets in practice had their heads blown off (Google images)
rowofswords
Katana (Samurai) swords laid out in rows.  They were long, curved, single-bladed and could slice a man in half. (Google images)

“The Japs began losing ground after America entered the war with a powerful fleet of fighter planes and bombers.  I remember them.  There were the B-27s, B-23s, B-24s and B-26s.”

propagandaposter
Anti-American propaganda (Google images)
japwarposter

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Chinese and Japanese were hostile to each other. If the Chinese had been for the Japanese, the Americans would never have won the war.”

planesinformation
American bombers (Google images

“I remember watching the Japanese bombers flying overhead in formation with anti-aircraft units hot in pursuit.”

“The air raid sirens could go off at any time of day and you were supposed to seek shelter immediately in the bunker, under a staircase, or under furniture.  Our bunker was in the basement of the house.”

airraidshelter
Singaporeans waiting out an air raid in a bunker (Google images)

“I remember the dog fights in the air, when the Japanese bombers came in V-formation and the American fighter planes went after them.”

japfighterplane
Japanese boat plane (Google images)
fighterplane2
Japanese fighter plane (Google images)

 

 

 

 

 

 

dogfight
Aerial dogfight, WW2 (Google images)
soldierswatchingdogfightinair
American ground forces observing the wake created by aerial dogfights.  Pacific War (Google images)

“I stood outside one day and watched as a Japanese plane got shot down.  It caught fire and made a nose-dive to the ground.  It crashed into our compound, its tail pointing upwards.  There was a huge crater in the ground.    

wreckedfighterplane
Tail pointing upwards.  Downed warplane (Singapore) and gaping onlookers.  (Google images)

After the flames burned out, the gardener ran up.  He was an eccentric Indian man.  We were all convinced he was mad. He dragged the dead airman out, pulled off his boots and pillaged the corpse.  He pocketed the wrist watch and searched for gold fillings in the teeth. Then I saw the allied planes pass overhead – massive aircraft, gleaming in the sun.  You could hear them from miles away.”

planesinformation2
Allied planes. Massive aircraft, gleaming in the sun … (Google images)

 

 

“One day my father was shaving upstairs, when a shell came flying in through the bathroom window and rolled down the staircase.  Thank God it didn’t explode. 

 

Our home was like a refugee camp for the Ceylon Tamil community – injured boys and girls were brought there.  Providentially, Mount Rosie was never bombed.”

boyslearningjapanese
Singaporean students being taught Japanese, circa 1940s (Google images)

“We attended an Anglo-Chinese school.  There was a Tamil priest on the teaching staff.  The Singaporean teachers were compelled to learn Japanese and then teach it to their students.”

“Our formal schooling was sporadic through the war years.  English was forbidden.

japlanguagegroupclass
A Japanese class with soldiers in attendance, Singapore, circa 1940s (Google images)

My father taught us in the basement bunker at night.  We had to memorize poetry and I was able to read far beyond my years.

I remember reciting The boy stood on the burning deck …

 

 

The Japanese soldiers had funny uniforms – long, long khaki shorts and hats with elongations at the back from the brims, covering their necks.”

officerwithsword
Dad’s amazing power of recollection: “The officers wore white shirt, khaki jacket and leather boots”. And the long swords he described … (Google images)
brtisreoccupy
Japanese soldiers wearing long khaki shorts and hats with “long extensions at the back”.  I was amazed at Dad’s accurate description, culled from his memories from over 75 years ago. (Google images) 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“The officers wore white shirt, khaki jacket and leather boots.

 I remember coming down the hill, one particular day, where the school was situated.  There were steps going up the hill to the school building. The students were all lined up on either side of the road to greet and wave flags at visiting Japanese army dignitaries.  They came in a convoy of lorries and military vehicles.  A boy standing across the street called out to me.  Without thinking, I dashed across the road to reach him, cutting through the oncoming parade.  A lorry hit me and I was knocked unconscious.  They drove on.  They didn’t stop.  The entire convoy passed over me. 

convoyoftanks
“They didn’t stop.  The entire convoy passed over me …” (Google images)

When the parade was done, the Tamil priest — the teacher from my school – picked me up and took me to the government hospital.  Miraculously, there was no serious injury and I recovered.”

“How old were you, Dad?” I queried.

“I must have been about 7 or 8.”

“That was nothing short of divine providence,” I commented.

Dad nodded.  “Yes,” he said. “And I used to collect all the shells and metal fragments I found lying around. That was my hobby.”

img_7703
Grandma Violet looking fine, wearing a saree (1961)

 

 

“My mother carried her jewellery in a pouch tied around her waist, under her saree.  She finally buried it all outside in the garden.  When the war was over she wasn’t able to find the spot to dig it back up.”

“You mean she lost all her jewellery?” I asked.

Dad shrugged.  “Many people buried their valuables and never found them again.”

 

 

“The Americans bombed Singapore before the Japs surrendered.  I remember Singapore harbour up in flames.”

battleforsingapore
Inferno.  American forces bomb Singapore, 1945 (Google images)
singaporeonfirecathedral
Singapore harbour in flames, 1945 (Google images)

 D-Day came and the Germans surrendered, but the Japanese hung on until the American bombings of Nagasaki and Hiroshima.  That was when they finally gave in.

hiroshimanagasaki
Mushroom clouds over Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Japan officially surrendered on September 12, 1945 after the US military dropped two atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945.  About 200,000 people died in the horrific aftermath of these nuclear explosions (Google images)

” Japan would never had surrendered if not for the atom bomb.  America was the only nuclear power in the world at the time.    The bombs were dropped two days apart.”

handingbacksingapore
Singapore is signed back over to the British, September 1945 (Google images)
signingofjapsurrender2
The British return to Singapore, 1945 (Google images)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My father had a radio hidden in the basement.  He tuned in at night to listen to the BBC news.  There was no other way of knowing how the war was progressing.  Suddenly one day, the war was over.  Everything fell silent.  The Japanese forces vanished.      

singaporeliberated
The Union Jack flies at full mast over liberated Singapore, 1945 (Google images)
convoyoflorries
The allied troops roll back in to Singapore, 1945 (Google images)

“A Ceylonese Burgher gentleman who was a friend of my father’s  – his name was Mr. Garth, an educated man, slightly brownish in complexion — ended up in a Japanese POW camp.  After we knew for sure that the war was over, my father took me with him to the POW camp.  I remember sitting  in the car as we drove there. 

The camp was a place of the living dead.  Men, women and children had been starved and made to do hard labour.  We found Mr. Garth.  He had been a prisoner for four years. He was plain skin and bones.  We brought him back home. My mother had cooked a good meal and set it on the table.  Mr. Garth sat and stared at the food for quite awhile.  Then he ate slowly, savouring every mouthful.   He saved the boiled egg for the last.”

alliedpow
Plain skin and bones.  A starving POW, Singapore, circa 1940s (Google images)
powsmarchfallofsingapore
Parade of prisoners in a Japanese POW camp (Google images)

 

 

 

 

 

 

The war ended in September 1945. 

300px-allied_prisoners_of_war_after_the_liberation_of_changi_prison,_singapore_-_c._1945_-_02
Rejoicing survivors (young boys in their midst) exit the Changi prison camp, Singapore, 1945 (Google images)
surrenderedswords
Rows of Katana swords after the surrender of Singapore at the end of the war (Google images)
japanesepows
Captors now captive … Japanese forces being guarded by Indian troops in Singapore, 1945 (Google images)

 

 

 

disarmedjapsoldiers
Captors captive. Japanese soldiers being hauled off to POW camps,  Singapore 1945 (Google images)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“The British returned.

Many Ceylon Tamils who lived in Burma had walked to South India to escape the invasion.  They were found and rescued.

Everything was in a mess.  A new administrative system had to be set up. All residents of Singapore had to get their British citizenship renewed.  Those who were not originally from Singapore were given the option of staying or receiving a free passage back to the country of their birth. 

Mother wanted to stay, but Father had no choice.    He had worked for the Japanese during the war years and was declared a traitor to the British Empire. 

His name was on a formal list of Traitors To The Empire that appeared in the newspapers directly after the war ended.

The British arranged for our repatriation.  We travelled in a massive ship which had been used as a troop carrier during the war.  It was called the SS Arundel Castle.”

ssarundel
The SS Arundel Castle. I was delighted to find a picture of the liner and amazed at the accuracy of Dad’s recollection.  (Google images)

Our passage was paid and they provided us with clothing and food.  With a load of over one thousand passengers – all Ceylon Tamils – the vessel set sail soon after the war was over.  The voyage lasted five to six days before we docked at Colombo harbour.   I remember being loaded onto a boat and coming ashore, where there was a big reception committee awaiting the home-comers. 

colomboharbourpostww2
Colombo harbour, circa 1940’s (Google images)

My mother’s sister’s daughter — my cousin, Mabel — came to meet us at the dock.  We slept the night at her home in Maradana and caught the train to Batticoloa  the next day.”

maradanarailwaystation
Maradana Railway Station (Google images)
inkedceyon.routetobatticoloa_li
The journey by rail from  the west coast of the island of Ceylon to Batticoloa on the eastern shoreline.
oldtrainontracks
In the land of their ancestors.  Rumbling through the countryside on British-built rails …  (Google images)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At breakfast the next morning, a heavy-eyed Dad informed me that he hadn’t had much sleep the previous night. “The horrible scenes kept playing in my head,” he said.

I picked another subject for that evening’s conversation. 

A year and a half in later, after the birth of his youngest child — a son — Grandpa James returned to Singapore.  He approached the British authorities in anticipation of being reinstated into his former civil service post. Representatives of His Majesty’s government grimly reminded my grandfather that his name was etched on the infamous traitor list. They concurred that Grandpa’s only other choice would have led to the instant annihilation of himself and his young family. They graciously granted him a pension for his service to the British Empire.  Then they showed him the door.

Grandpa sailed back to his native Ceylon.  He disembarked at the port of  Colombo and rode the railway back to Batticoloa in the east, where his wife had inherited extensive acreages of profitable paddy land.  

vintageceylontrain
An old steam train (1940’s Ceylon) rattling its way around the island on an efficient network of railways that still remains in use (Google images)

The new baby symbolized the end of an era in their lives.

Old dreams dead and buried, life commenced anew and in earnest. The three youngsters, foreigners in the land of their parents’ birth, were constrained to learn a fifth language. English, Malay, Chinese, Japanese and now … Tamil.

younggrampi
Settling in nicely.  Dad in his teens some years later, thriving in academics and sports, sporting his trademark moustache and burgeoning film-star looks. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If Grandpa was granted his pardon, if Granny obtained her heart’s desire, Dad wouldn’t have met Mum and allied himself with a new country and people.  

And I wouldn’t be here to tell the tale.     

20181225_080811~2
Looking good at 82.  Dad at Christmas service, 2017

 

 

An interesting thought which strengthens my conviction in the knowledge that life is directed by an unseen hand.  A hand that masterfully orchestrates circumstances in such a manner as to bring an undeniable destiny to pass.  With one hundred percent accuracy.     

                               Until next time,      

sincerely

      

 

 

 

P.S. Dad meets his bride in Matchmaker, Matchaker! (click here)

LIKE THIS AUTHOR’S FACEBOOK PAGE: CLICK HERE 

Be a friend and pass this post on. (Check out the share buttons below.)

Our Present Past (1)

“So what do you want to know?” she enquired.

“Everything,” I replied.

She chuckled. “Okay.  How much information do you have already?”

“Bits and pieces.  There’s a newspaper clipping  …”

“What does it say?”

“According to Rev. Donald Kanagaratnam who wrote an article which was published in the Morning Star, a young man named Kadirgamar Danvers from Tellipalai was baptized into the Christian faith in 1835. The villagers, angered by the conversion, burned the local church down.  Danvers fled to the village of Panditherruppu, where he met and married Anna Saveriyal.”

20180316_1405332
A clipping of the article by Rev. Donald Kanagratanam published in 1981 in the Morning Star (courtesy Eric Perinpanayagam).  The Morning Star was the oldest English newspaper in Jaffna, established by the American missionaries in 1841.

“There was a lot of missionary activity in Panditherruppu at the time.  They were more tolerant towards the converts,” she explained.

Tellipilai Church, Jaffna
The American Mission Church in Tellipalai, Jaffna (prior to civil war damage and reconstruction)

“According to Rev. Canagaratnam, Kadirgamar Danvers and Anna had seven children.  One of them was Solomon Danvers,who trained as a medical practitioner under the famous Dr. Green of Manipay.  An old Bible geneology that came into my possession recently, makes mention of only four offspring.”  

The children of Kadirgamar and Anna Danvers (as recorded in the Bible of Solomon Samuel, their great grandson) –

  • David Danvers (married Harriet  Theivanei)
  • Solomon Danvers (married Thangam Vethanayagam)
  • Jane Elizabeth Danvers (married Joshua Perinpanayagam)
  • Gabriel Danvers (married Mary Santiago)

 David Danvers (son of Kadirgamar and Anna) married Harriet Theivanei.

 

img_1918
Victoria Harriet (Theivenei) Danvers  (courtesy Vasanthi Narendran)

 

img_1917
1. Gabriel Danvers and wife, Mary (nee Santiago)     2.  Gabriel’s son and wife – Alfred Muttiah Danvers and Archimuttu – with their daughter  3. Albert Seevaratnam Danvers and his sister, Muttamma, children of Gabriel’s brother, Solomon Danvers (from notes by the late Rev. Donald Kanagaratnam)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The children of David and Harriet Danvers –

  • Mary Chellammah Danvers (married Vethanayagam Samuel)
  • Elizabeth Annamma Danvers (married Jacob Arumainayagam)
  • Rebecca Ponnamma Danvers (married Samuel Alfred Perinpanayagam)

 “Mary Chellammah married Vethanayagam Samuel, who was your great grandfather,” she said.  “Her sister, Rebecca Ponnamma, married Samuel Alfred Perinpanayagam. Samuel Alfred’s father was Joshua Perinpanayagam, who married Jane Elizabeth Danvers, (the daughter of Kadirgamar and Anna), David Danvers’ sister.”

My head begins to swim in a muddle of recurring last names …

“Ah … so that’s the Perinpanayagam connection.  And Rebecca Ponnamma Danvers and Samuel Alfred Perinpanayagam were first cousins,” I commented.  “There’s a connection to the Newtons, too, I noticed …”

Mary Chellamma (Danvers) Samuel
facebook_1494950551344
Samuel Alfred and Rebecca Ponnamma (nee Danvers) Perinpanayagam (courtesy Eric Perinpanayagam)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

fb_img_1484355359068
Samuel Alfred Chelladurai Perinpanayagam, at age 25 (born 1872)

 

img_20170222_115511997
Family tree notes from the files of S.E.R. Perinpanayagam (son of Rebecca Ponnamma and Samuel Alfred Perinpanayagam) (Courtesy Thavo Perinpanayagam)

 

img_1924
Samuel Alfred and Rebecca (Danvers) Perinpanayam with their children and Rebecca’s mother, Harriet (Theivanei) Danvers (from the archives of the late Rev. Donald Kanagaratnam)

“There have been Danvers/Perinpanayagam/ Newton marriages over a few generations,” she replied. “My mother told me the old stories.  Now I can pass them on to you and they won’t die with me. I’m so happy you are doing this.” 

Her eyes grew misty.

I’m visiting the Colombo home of Aunty Paranidhi, Mum’s cousin.  We’ve just met for the first time.  She responds with ease to my barrage of questions  …

20170927_111040
Aunty Paranidhi, a goldmine of ancecstral history.  I managed to snatch two more visits during my brief stay in Colombo.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My journey of inquiry commenced shortly after        Mum’s funeral in 2015, when I came across a battered copy of a formal family portrait from the 1930’s.

img_8666
The photograph that began it all.  Shadrack Samuel, wife Mercy (nee Newton) and their children, taken before the birth of their youngest child, Elizabeth.  Left to right: Ruby, Pearl, Dan (seated), Peter. Beatrice is the toddler held by her father.

Faded photos on relatives’ Facebook pages – fascinating pictures of men and women from generations gone by – fanned curiosity to a compelling flame. 

The search began. 

I embarked on a voyage of e-mails, long distance calls and some stamped, addressed pieces of snail mail. Pictures, obituary notices, genealogies and newspaper clippings poured in from all corners of the globe.  Through Facebook introductions, Whats App texts and hand-written letters, relatives contacted each other on my behalf, and people I’d only heard of by name leapt onto the ancestry bandwagon.

An inundation of images and information descended on me.  Tantalizing clues, fascinating glimpses into a bygone colonial culture and whispers of a skeleton or two in the ancestral cupboards. Riveting.  The stuff bestselling novels are made of.

The first stop on the trail led me to Wellawatte (Colombo, Sri Lanka) and Aunty Paranidhi.  Her eyesight is almost non-existent, but her mind is razor-sharp, her recollection flawless. I see pieces of my mother in the facial features.  The family resemblance is evident. 

My pen flies across the pages of the notebook I balance on my lap …

“So Mary Chellammah – David and Harriet Danvers’ daughter – was given in marriage to Vethanayagam Subramaniam Samuel.  He was a farmer who owned land in Urumbrai – 

Vethanayagam Samuel and Mary Chellammah had six children –

  • Sarah Chinnamah (married David Sinniah Kanagaratnam)
  • Subramaniam Vethanayagam Chelliah (married Annam)
  • Shadrack Chinniah Samuel (married Mercy Sugirtharatnam Newton)
  • Elizabeth Thangamma (married Godwin Wesley Sittampalam)
  • Anna Chinnathangam (married Albert Kanthapoo)
  • Solomon Chinnatamby Samuel (married Mercy Atputhanayagam Gnanaratnam)
img_1935
Subramaniam V. Chelliah

 

img_1936-e1533177404237.jpg
Rebecca Ponnamma
IMG_0272
Elizabeth Thangamma

 

Shadrak Chinniah

 

 

img_1928
Anna Chinnathangam

 

img_1932
Solomon Chinnathamby

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Aunty Renee found handwritten notes in her father’s Bible  – that’s the Bible I mentioned.  She sent me scanned copies of the geneologies recorded on the fly leaf.  My heart almost stopped when I saw how the entries confirm the details set out in Uncle Donald’s article.  Just imagine, how information from a source in Australia confirms the data acquired from another source in Western Canada! Within weeks of each other.  It has to be providence!”

20180316_140612
Handwritten family records from great uncle Solomon Samuel’s Bible

“Your interest is inspiring,” she commented. “No one seems to care about these things these days. Renee is Solomon Chinnathamby’s daughter. He had ten children.  She is my first cousin.”

 “Yes, I know. I remember great uncle Solomon Samuel and the annual Christmas visits to his home in Mutwal. 

“Anna and Solomon were twins,” she continued.  “Shadrack Chinniah was your grandfather.  Anna Chinnathangam was my mother.  And Rebecca Chinnammah was the mother of Rev. Donald Kanagaratnam who wrote the article you told me about.  He was my cousin and your mother’s.”

img_1952
Rev. Donald Kanagaratnam (standing) with his sisters and mother, Rebecca Ponnamma

“According to the genealogy in the Bible, Anna Saveriyal – Kadirgamar Danvers’ wife – was a Bible Woman,” I noted.

20190321_122925~2
Bible Woman, circa late 1800 – early 1900’s.

“Bible women worked among the women in the village.  They visited the homes, shared the gospel of their faith and cared for them,” she explained.

A group of Bible Women (1910), Bibles in hand. (Courtesy ceylontamils.com)

“I remember your mother,” I said. “We called her Asai Granny. She came to stay with us once when I was about seven years old.  I remember the glasses and the white hair knotted at the back of her head.  She taught me how to make a rag rug with strips of leftover material and a hairpin.  I never forgot that.”

img_1943
Anna Chinnathangam (Asai Granny) as I remember her

Aunty picks up the threads of her narrative …

“Vethanayagam Samuel, a successful farmer, wanted more land.  After the birth of his two oldest children, he relocated his family to Vavuniya in the undeveloped Vanni region of the northern province of Jaffna.  In those days, people of the Vanni were considered wild and uncouth, even the British avoided the area, so land was dirt cheap. Samuel disposed of his property in Urumbirai, and with the proceeds from the sale, invested in several acres in Vavuniya. He built a house for his growing family and began to cultivate the land.

Jaffna.10
Jaffna province in northern Sri Lanka (Ceylon)

Once established and beginning to prosper, Samuel encouraged his brother and family move to Vavuniya and make a new life for themselves. The brother sold his land in Urumbrai and purchased the stretch of property adjoining Samuel’s fields. The families became neighbours.

Vethanayagam Samuel distinguished himself as a prominent citizen and earned the respect of his peers.  He was appointed chairman of the village council, which was a position of authority and responsibility.

The were no proper roads in the region.  Daily journeys on foot could involve traversing stretches of jungle inhabited by snakes and wild animals.  Legend has it that Samuel was skilled in the art of herbal medicine and would venture into the jungle in search of plants for his potions.

The farming life called for disciplined manual labour.  The older children, still all under ten, had to wake up at dawn each day to perform assigned chores.

Sarah Chinnammah had the unenviable job of cleaning out the cattle shed.  One morning she pretended to be asleep and refused to be roused.  Her father, whose task it was to wake her up, finally declared, “If my child is really asleep, her feet will move.”

Rebecca reacted as expected and wiggled her toes.  She received a spanking for her naughtiness and was shooed out of bed to complete her daily task.

The twins – Anna and Solomon – were born in Vavuniya.  During the pregnancy, an astrologer made a grim proclamation.  He declared that the birth would not be a good omen and would bring about the untimely demise of both parents (Samuel and Mary).

Solomon showed no signs of life when he was born.  The midwife placed the tiny body on a banana leaf outside on the open verandah of the home and rushed back inside to attend to the mother who had gone into labour with a second baby – a twin – whose appearance was an unexpected surprise.  Rebecca, the oldest child, sat beside the lifeless form of her new little brother, shedding tears over the loss.  Providence intervened when a fly settled on the infant, who shuddered in response and began to bawl loudly as if nothing had been the matter. 

img_0738
Solomon Samuel in his twilight years.  He lived to a ripe old age and was known for his vigour and boundless energy.

Custom dictated that on the thirty-first day after the delivery of a chid, a traditional ceremony of cleansing (thudakku kaliththal in Tamil) must be carried out.  The woman who had given birth would take a ritual herbal bath and the house had to be washed and cleaned from top to bottom.

Vethanayagam Samuel and his wife were about to begin the task of house-cleansing when a message came from the village counsel.  Samuel was needed to arbitrate on a matter involving a dispute.  Samuel sent word asking to be excused. He requested that the vice chairman to act on his behalf.

A second summons came.  The matter was urgent, they said.  His presence was mandatory.

Samuel left home on the mission of mediation, assuring his wife he would return in an hour.  He conferred with both parties and reached a verdict.  The disgruntled man who hadn’t been favoured by the decision, reached for a weapon concealed in his clothing and struck a heavy blow.  Samuel’s head split open.  Never pausing to retaliate, Samuel re-tied his turban and headed home. Blood gushed down from the wound in his head.

He passed a pond (kulam) as he walked, and saw the family dhoby (washerman) scrubbing his way through a pile of villgers’ clothing. 

‘Dhobies’ – washermen – human washing machines, beating garments against rocks and washing boards to get them clean. Circa late 1800s, northern Ceylon.

Samuel stepped in to cool off and dipped his head in the water.  The dhoby, concerned to see how the water turned crimson from the blood, reached for some fresh-washed clothing spread out on the ground to dry.  Samuel shed his blood-stained linen, donning the clean sarong (veshti) and turban offered by the dhoby. He walked into the house to his waiting wife, stepped over the threshold and announced that he was ready to start cleaning. Then, barely pausing for breath, Vethanayagam Samuel collapsed at her feet and died.

In an instant Mary Chellammah Samuel found herself a widow with six young children on her hands.  Rebecca – the oldest – was 10, the twins – Solomon and Anna – were barely a month old.

Rebecca Chinnammah, a child herself, had to take charge of a brood of fatherless siblings while her mother attempted to salvage the pieces of their shattered lives.

Click here  to go to Part 2:  Widow’s Dilemma

KEEP IT MOVING! SEND THIS POST ON WHATS APP.   SCROLL DOWN FOR SHARE BUTTONS, LIKE AND PASS ON.

THUMBS UP ! Like this writer’s  Facebook Author page: Click here 

Good Morning JOY!

Dear Judy,      

The sun glowed orange during rush hour this morning.  My heart sagged under a weight of joy and I slowed down to take pictures –  

I almost sent them off to you.                                         

Then I remembered …

I recalled a recent dialogue we had.

Me: Could I use these pictures of you, please?  There’s such a beauty about you that’s riveting.

.facebook_1507624146079
… and this one. (Judy wrote:that is Eamon reading a letter that I wrote to him. I love my bedhead look.”)

facebook_1512657689514
I asked her for this picture  … (Judy with a mixing bowl and the rubber chicken she used as a ‘bell’ too summon assistance)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

    

 

 

You:  You can use every picture you want.  You don’t have to ask.  Surprise me!

So I’m surprising you today …

You: How long was your fight with cancer?

Me: The cancer battle was over a year and a half.  My oncologist calls me a success case (I prefer miracle patient).  I don’t look like myself in the picture, do I?  Within two weeks of your first chemo, the hair starts falling out and you mutate into someone else. I began to practice intentional thankfulness.  When gratitude seeps in, joy is not too far behind.  Those were beautiful, dark, lovely, intense and precious times.  God sends angels, as you know, in many shapes and forms.

You: I don’t look like myself anymore, either.  I was always on the go.  Now it is my mind that is on fast.

Enjoying the evening
What a girl! My friend, Judy, as she used to be.

11-at-the-quarterdeck.jpg
Judy (right) standing tall at 6′ 1″, with her mum and sister, Linda (left)

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

The aircraft commenced its descent into Halifax last Thursday afternoon and my thoughts overflowed with vignettes from your heart –                                                           

  • My mum sent the pink rose to me today … just because.  The Ford Escape is on the lawn because Cam wanted me to see it.  He just bought it yesterday as a second vehicle.  My wheelchair van rides low so it’s not practical for snowy days ahead.  I always loved a Ford Escape and Cam would drive a van.

received_807340769427979
Her mum’s rose in a vase on the window sill and Judy’s view of the Ford Escape, parked by the hen-house.

  • We have a cottage on the Bay of Fundy and watch the tides go in and the tides go out.  Nature at its best.  September is a special time.  Most cottagers are only there on weekends, so the solitude and beauty is magnified.  My paradise …

.facebook_1493652741936
Her paradise – the cottage on the Bay of Fundy

received_774939672668089
A serene spot to sit stare in a sky-blue chair

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Your beloved Cameron –

  • Cam and our brother-in-law are re-shingling the back of the cottage.  It has been a  busy day.  For me, the moments when I can look out the window and see the eagle fly, sandpipers having their last meals before heading to South America and the magnificent clouds being reflected in both water and wet mud are highlights of my soul.

20140831_180629
Judy and  Cameron

.facebook_1515557440542
Judy and her beloved Cam on their wedding day

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  •  Today it was 29 degrees and sunny,  so I went out in my wheelchair to enjoy.  On impulse I drove on my lawn around to my gardens to see the tulips and bleeding heart.  I felt free until my wheelchair got stuck in soggy lawn.  Resourceful Cam got blocks of wood and we managed to get out.  BUT my tires were full of mud.   Cam cleaned as much as he could off and them I wheeled myself in.  A flashback hit me.  How many times had I told the boys NOT to wear their dirty boots in the house?  Cam, patient Cam, has been working at getting the wheels clean ever since!!!

JOY was your three-letter codeword –

  • Went to the Festival of Lights today in Wolfville, where Cam and I met while going to Acadia University.  At the farmer’s market, it was all about Indian food and entertainment.  I got a dragonfly and the word JOY done with henna and several Indian silk scarves for Christmas gifts.

received_807340739427982
Waking up to JOY on her arm each morning …

received_798764990285557
 Henna tattos: dragonfly-and-JOY  (the dragonfly is the ALS symbol)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • I am waking up immediately to JOY in the morning for the next couple of weeks.

 

  • What made my day?  My careworker this morning for 4 hours was Holly. Someone that previously had only been there for my half hour tuck-ins at night.  We were sitting at my kitchen table in the sun, when I asked her about her heart-shaped ring  … and that was my further joy for the day.              

You infused JOY into every moment, Judy, distilled, savoured, sipped on it, then infected the air you breathed and intoxicated those around you.

IMG_6533
… in Judy’s home

This says it all
JOY glowing on her front lawn and …

You: There is no such thing as coincidence. 

Absolutely. I agree …

You:  Maybe I came into your life to show you the other side of ALS.  The joyful side.

You did just that.  And you did it so well …

.facebook_1510338556250
Always smiling.  Judy (left) chose joy during her four-year journey with Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS)

Your boys: your pride and JOY – 

Our sons or Charlie's angels
Judy’s/Charlies’ Angels! The three Starrit brothers all grown up. 

.facebook_1516918074907
Judy’s JOYS: Cam and her sons

  • Tim is home. Happy heart.
  • Just got back from taking Tim to the airport.  What a lovely visit and a wonderful son.  He left such wonderful memories behind.

received_813211132174276
Tim with his newest nephew, Henry

received_793195314175858
Andrew and his boys  

  • Andrew came home on Friday and stays till this Friday.  Check him out on You Tube in the Hot Fireman ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.  (Click here to watch  Judy standing at Andrew’s side as he takes up the challenge.)

 

  • .facebook_1515373974030
    Matthew visits at Christmas

    Matthew was home from Wednesday to Saturday.  Shared the big news that Laura is pregnant!  Be still my heart.  We are so blessed.

Those grandbabies –

  • Got a wonderful card in the mail today, with an ultrasound picture on the front and the announcement inside saying “It’s a boy!”  Our third grandson is due the end of October.  The Starrit genes were working again.  OverJOYed!!!!
  • He was born yesterday and all is right with the world.  8lb 11 0z of pure JOY! Yesterday was such an emotional day.  Waiting, wondering, wishing, praying.  And then the phone call came.  Rejoicing, heart exploding, celebrating our new JOY!  And then by 10.00 at night, emotional breakdown.  Thinking about what I will be missing in his future, but being so overjoyed he is here.  A part of me.

received_830924487069607
Celebrating Henry, the newest JOY …

received_830924383736284
Judy with sister, Linda, and tiny Henry

  • He’s Henry now.  Named after Cam’s dad.  We are still on our baby high.  Will be for quite a while.
  • Cam just stenciled a picture of him onto a pillowcase.

received_801185646710158
Cam’s handiwork: Baby Henry-on-a-pillow

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Tomorrow Andrew, Findlay and Eamon are coming for Thanksgiving weekend. I am beyond excited!!!

    received_793190580842998
    They’re here!  Watching for Findlay and Eamon through her bedroom window.
  • I have arranged for the pilot, Debbie, of the only plane that travels to Sable Island, to come and speak about her experiences.
  • I took pictures, but my hands were unsteady with excitement.

22292207_793195067509216_126083908_o
“Starfish or a shell?” (Pilot Debbie engages the kids in discussion)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grandad, Grandma, Findlay and Eamon
“Smile guys!” (Gramps and Grammy with Findlay and Eamon)

 

 

 

  • Eamon just messaged me.  Andrew is taking them to a movie.  He likes to keep me informed.

Your sister —

  • Tonight Linda comes.  Any minute now.
  • Linda is here and we are going to listen to the sixth CD of the Book Of Joy, a conversation between the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Tutu.  This is our sixth Monday night doing it …

The Rhuda girls
Sister Linda (right) with Mum and Judy

… and the whacky, wonderful friends –

  • My friend, Mary, and sister are coming out to play a card game called Quiddler.  A weekly event.  I am on a winning streak.
  • Mary brings muffins for Cam
  • My tree is trimmed and …

IMG_6528
The tree is trimmed … (in Judy’s living room)

 

 

 

 

 

… the Wild and Woolies are coming at 4.00.  Laughter will abound.

  • The Wild and Woolies have been getting together for over thirty years

IMG_6497 (1)
“Wild’s the word: wool’s the game!”  (The Wild and Woolies, Judy’s crazy rug-hooking gang at her Celebration of Joy)

 

image1 (1)
Laughter abounds. Judy with Wild and Woolly Pal, Jean

image1
The Wild and Woolies hooked a pun-ny Christmas gift for Judy:  JOY TO THE WOOLED

Don’t forget the goats

  • Andrew and Cam have just taken the goats up the hill for a walk.    If we let them loose too close to the house, they would eat all the flowers coming up …

facebook_1516918315589 (1)
Playing the giddy goat … Cam at her bedroom window

IMG_6523
Goats-on-a-quilt. Judy’s handiwork …

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • I always have flowers in my view.  I even got flowers for Father’s Day!

 

 

 

 

Gotta be kid-ding – goats at a wedding?(The “kids” are included in Andrew and Shantel’s backyard nuptials) …

… and the chickens (of course) —

  • Just had the chickens playing the xylophone at my window.

FB_IMG_1493652549791
Chicken serenade.  Pecking a little tune.   (JOY on the windowsill)

FB_IMG_1494337703037
Cereal inducement.  Cam scattering cheerios on the keyboard of a toy xylaphone! 

.facebook_1516918254011

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Homecare just arrived, but chickens come first!

 

On living with ALS –

  • I have a whole new view on listening.  My boogie board is my voice now.  People don’t wait until I finish writing and assume what I’m going to say and rush off to do their own thing.  Also, they read it wrong, and I have to get their attention and underline a word or words.
  • It cost less than $30 at Costco.

received_830924303736292
Judy’s “boogie board”.  She used a tablet-type device to communicate.

  • I WAS a talker!
  • I do most of my writing on my phone now.
  • I am using my BiPAP for about 20 hours a day.  It gives me the freedom of not having to think every time I take a breath.  The strength in my hands has diminished as well.  I will NOT let that keep me from living a full life but it has put limitations on what I can do.  ALS sucks sometimes.

Sucks? The beast stinks …

.facebook_1514787004748
Judy: Bipap to breathe, crimson manicure and loads of laughter.

  • Thank you, my dearest friend, for caring so much

You have no idea how much, Judy …

About the annual ALS Walkstrong fundraising campaign

#9 PALS Award (1)
Judy (right), active spokesperson and ALS Awareness campaigner with Kimberly Carter (left) of the ALS Society of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia

  • Success.  Beyond resounding!  My mind is still going.  Still walking.  Still enjoying yesterday.  There were 59 people, including care-workers, friends and family on Judy’s Joys.  I am blessed  Truly blessed.

.facebook_1516918013838
Judy’s Joyful Angels – one of the  teams representing Judy in the ALS fundraising walk – and …

 

 

 

 

.facebook_1512506811185
… Judy’s Joyful Jewels

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Took 5-6 days to get over the walk.  SO worth it!

 

 

We shared our rainbows, you and I —

In your home …

… in mine –

You: We are definitely sisters from another mother.

There’s no doubt about that!

You: The physical meeting somehow eludes us, but we are so much beyond that.  We are so much closer than that.  What we have done for each other is beyond friendship.     

Me: Can’t wait to meet you, Judy.  It will be odd, though.  Kind of like having a first date after being married for a year!

You: I, too, want to meet you!  If I could, I would be on a plane now.  But the other side of reality is that I know I won’t be travelling by plane anymore.  Too many uncertainties. 

IMG_6471
Just a text away.  Judy used pictures, video clips and GIFs to express herself.  They were dead on and often hilarious.  (Bottom left, her Facebook profile picture.)

You:  Wish, wish you lived nearby.  Always thinking about you.

Me: Me too.  I love how Cam cares for you, love the chickens, love the red bike.  I even love your ghastly puns!

facebook_1516309226912 (1)
Flowering bicycle planter (painted red by Cameron)

.facebook_1516918193787
Hilarious hens partying at the window

 

 

 

 

 

FB_IMG_1494337676646
The lady loved her puns. One of the many groaners on Judy’s Facebook Page

 

 

 

 

 

   

 

You: Our friendship goes much deeper.  I needed you as much as you needed me.  You took me outside of myself.

  • By the way, Cam is going to mail a parcel to you tomorrow.  No parcel from you yet.  Tomorrow.

Your parcel arrived by express post on December 23rd.  Icicles dripped off the eaves as the mailman hopped from one foot to the other and blew on his hands, while I hastily inscribed a signature on the electronic board he held out to me.

20180103_084134_HDR.jpg
DREAMS made from Scrabble pieces  Hangs by my desk to inspire me as I write.   

Such a treasure trove of thoughtful things inside …   

         

Me:  Did you make the Scrabble ornament?  Love it!

You:  Bought it at the ALS sale.

Me:  It was meant for me.

You: I found your DREAMS, didn’t I?

You sure did!

20171209_153235

 

 

 

 

 

We called on Christmas Eve, before heading out to church.  Husband, Daughters and I sang We Wish You A Merry Christmas on speakerphone.  Cam said you raised your arms in delight and crossed your hands over your heart.

On Christmas day we shared cameo moments.

You sent me –

25188182_821034691391920_1521955600_n
Joy on the Christmas tree

received_827633390732050
Mum sipping a cup of yuletide tea

and I sent these –

  • Isn’t this fun?

Absolutely!

  • Our house was always the ‘go to’ house at Christmas.  I used to make rolls and shape them in the form of wreaths and Christmas trees.  Decorate them, of course, and wrap them in clear, cellophane with fancy ribbons.  That is a thing of the past now, but Christmas still comes and goes!

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

I sent you a song on Saturday night.  It came with my heart.  Your response set my heart ablaze.

Click here to listen

I picked up Cameron’s message on Sunday afternoon.  You crossed over an hour after we last messaged each other.

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

Cousin Preman met me at the airport and drove me to the afternoon and evening visitations. 

20180111_195402
Joyful Judy moments up on the  screens at Knox United Church

 20180112_131626.jpg

 

 

 

 

20180111_141524
Judy’s JOY all over the church foyer

 

 

 

 

 

 

I met Cam and Linda, Mum and your boys.  And the Wild and Woolies, of course.

Linda told me she’d packed my Christmas box of  goodies for Cam to mail.  She recognized the necklace I wore.  

received_778893972319382
Wore it to the funeral.  The breast cancer ribbon necklace from my Christmas box – celebrating survival

20180111_193126
Judy’s sister, Linda, at the evening visitation

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I laughed with the Wild and Woolies.  Such stories they had to tell …

It felt like I’d known your friends and family forever.

20180111_141309.jpg

Your final farewell on Friday was one immense celebration of joy.  The church was packed.

An unusual, uplifting occasion.  You planned it all yourself, Linda said in her tribute. 

Your beloved Bhangra Boys danced their hearts out.  

IMG_6493
Judy’s Maritime Bhangra Boys performed 

(Click here to dance with Judy and her Bhangra Boys, on her birthday last year.)         

I picked up my tea bag and one of your dainty, embroidered white hankies on my way out.

20180113_095829
There was a tea bag ‘party favour’ for everyone, with Judy’s instructions to have a cup of joy with a friend and an invitation to take one of her lovely old fashioned handkerchiefs to be used to wipe away tears of joy and sadness.

 

 

 

 

(Click here for photos and video clips of Judy’s funeral Celebration of Joy)          

 

 

 

 

It felt strange to visit your home on Saturday.  To walk up the ramp and knock at your kitchen door. 

facebook_1516918282502
Cam and Mum on the volunteer-built wheelchair ramp 

IMG_6519
Judy’s hospital bed (from which she took many pictures), all neatly made up, will be donated to the ALS society.

 

 

 

facebook_1516918366190
Google Earth view of her home posted on Judy’s Facecbook Page

 

 

 

 

 

IMG_6536
Cameron with Andrew (left) and Matthew.  Tim had left for the airport

Joy all over the house, pouring from every corner.

Cam and I sat in your room.  We chatted like we’d known each other forever. 

My Christmas package finally made it out to you after New Year’s, he told me. Two days before your final departure.  Cam said you smiled when he showed it to you

He showed me your rubber chickens.  I peeped into the henhouse on my way out.

IMG_6527.JPG
Cam with the rubber chickens. Judy used them like a bell, to summon assistance

IMG_6538
Had to check out  the henhouse.  An infrared light keeps the cluckies warm in the winter

You wrote three months ago: PS:  Oct 11 – went to my regular 3 month appointment with all the specialists today.  They are all pleased with how I’m doing …

 The only predictable thing about life is its unpredictability, isn’t it?

 ……………………………………………………………………………………………….

I’m sipping, as I remember and write, from the mug I found nestled in my surprise Christmas box.               

20180108_153326
From my Christmas box.  Life sure surprised me with you, Judy.

20180110_083443_HDR
From my Christmas box.  The dragonfly is the ALS symbol

                            

 

 

 

 

The dragonfly brightens my kitchen window.  I love how it begins to burn when the sun seeps through.           

We never said ‘hello’ in person, Judy.  I never got to write about what I discovered in the bombed out jungle graveyard in Tellipallai, Jaffna.  This was not how our Dear Judy travel series was supposed to end.

I’m thankful you found this blog and reached out in joyful friendship.

(Click here to read how we met)

Thank you, my courageous friend.  You are proof that a purpose-driven life does not necessarily embrace a bed of roses. You were a true and unique gift.

.facebook_1515373943396
RIP Judy Starrit, my amazing, inspirational friend. 

  • Loving you from afar. Love, xx Judy

I love you too, Judy …

We’ll meet face-to-face.  On the other shore some day, when my own journey’s done. 

20180127_152600

20171201_192012
He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nopain any more, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:4 RSV)

 

              

 

 

 

 

 

 

His Master said to him, “Well done, good and faithful servant … enter into the JOY of your master.” (Matthew 25:23 RSV)

Until then,
sincerely

20180129_115440_2

           13724128_10154214751441285_3664275386834145870_o

              THUMBS UP ! Like this Facebook Author page: Click here

Good Morning Jaffna!

Dear Judy,

The snow’s piled up outside.                                          

20171212_103513
This morning’s view through kitchen door.

.facebook_1512506811185
My friend, Judy Starrit (seated), who lives in Beaver Banks, Nova Scotia.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

20171122_130954
Just the beginning …

Summer still clings to my head in spite of the skeletal trees brooding outside my window.

20171119_110051_HDR_2
There’s a desolate ugly-beauty about leafless tress 

IMG_20151217_093542
Sigh …

IMG_20151217_100317
Not if I had any choice in the matter …

Okay, so returning to warmer times in sunny climes …

We are now in Jaffna, Judy.  Part Two of our virtual travels  together, you and I —

Click here to read  Good Morning (Again) Colombo! (Dear Judy, Part 1) …

1511377820324817233987
This is the island of Sri Lanka in the Indian Ocean, the tear drop at the foot of the sub-continent of  India.  The pink shaded area in north is the Jaffna peninsula where our ancestors hail from.

We drove into Tellippalai where Dad’s parents settled on their return to Ceylon (Sri Lanka’s pre-republic name) from the British colony of Malaya, shortly after World War II. Grandpa, a communications officer under the British government, took up the post of Airport Controller in the neighbouring town of Palaly.

Ghosts of war-time devastation lined our route.   Cringing skeletons of  bombed out buildings still haunt this once-upon-a-time ghost town. 

IMG_3158
Tellipallai was subjected to merciless bombing, in an ugly game of political tit-for-tat 

 

 

 

 

 A trickle of former war regugees are returning after decades of absence.  Several  unclaimed properties are now in government hands …

Desolate brick-and-motar wraiths of buildings steadfastly guard their ground –

So on day three of our odyssey, Husband and I found ourselves  at the entrance of the graveyard attached to the Church of the American Ceylon Mission.

The rubble of shattered gravestones poked their way through tall vegetation, thorny underbrush and rope-like vines.   A tangled tatch of tropical  jungle.

20171002_162424
The entrance to the graveyard-turned-jungle.  A short way down the road from the church.

20171002_162357
Rope-like vines with broken bits of tombstone peeping through the undergrowth

 

 

20171002_162339

Yikes! How trustworthy is the church caretaker who said there were no snakes?

But I have to tell you first about the journey leading up to this moment, Judy.  

So this is how it came about …

Husband and I made a spur-of-the-moment decision to visit our ancestral homelands in the Jaffna Peninsula, a war zone for decades and only recently open to tourists.

How to figure out the details in such a short space of time?

I remembered Yamindra Watson Perera of Jungle Fowl Leisure Planners

Yamindra Watson Perera, partner at Jungle Fowl.  Her cousin told me about this adventurous new start up.

— and presented my wish list to Mariesz, her assistant. A demanding cut-and-paste itinerary, a combination of every location in the area associated with family history and lore.  Neither lady turned a hair.

Until …

Mariesz:  No.  So sorry, we are still in the process of setting up our site for online payments.   IMG-20171215-WA0002

Me: (wailing) But I don’t have time to go to the bank!

Yamindra and Mariesz showed up at Dad’s condo the next afternoon, with Accountant Lady and credit card machine in tow.

IMG-20171204-WA0001 (1)
The Jungle Fowl team: Yamindra Watson Perera (left), Mariesz Ebert (centre) with the credit card machine, smiling lady accountant (right)

Impressive service or what?

All booked and paid up by the time Husband flew in from Toronto.

Still pitch-dark.  Growling clouds burped and released a deluge as we drove away.     

20170930_060700
Droplets on car window as day awakes 

20170930_061219_HDR
Sunrise over cocunut trees

 

Rest stop and a scalding pot of Ceylon tea in the ancient city of Anuradhapura

20171003_124657
Tea at Seedevi Family Restaurant, brewed the Sri Lankan way — strong, with loads of sugar and condensed milk.  No time to linger unfortunately.

20170930_094804
Nirangan, our driver/guide, sips his tea

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Searing heat.

And it’s well past the hottest time of year …

20171003_121411
Brave tourists on bikes, mopping moisture off their persons

20170930_063036
Go girls! Ladies on scooters and mo’bikes.  The pillion rider is texting.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Landscape grows arid, parched and thirsty.

IMG_2942
The Jaffna peninsula’s signature palmyrah palm thrives where no greenery would dare

IMG_2945
Gasping to grow …

 

 

 

20170930_123518
Salt farms along the coastal line.

20170930_123502
Post-war reconstruction has produced impressive roads. Highway skirts the ocean and rail route

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A paradox-panorama of war and peace as we fly by –

20170930_122352_HDR
Memories of war – Concrete water tower resting on its side.  Toppled over by the LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam) militants.

20170930_123552
Monument to peace – the island of Lanka supported by multiple hands, the national flag in full flutter

Crossed Elephant Pass, a sliver of strait connecting the northern province to the rest of the island, sandwiched on either side by shallow stretches sea.

Welcome to Jaffna, the traditional homeland of the Tamil people  …                    

img_2688-1.jpg
Finally the Lion of Lanka has united the troubled northern region (where once flew the  Tamil Tiger Flag)  with its southern brethren.

20171003_092903_HDR
Approaching Elephant Pass

Zipped through Vavuniyya, then Chavakacheheri —

 — and on to Jaffna town.  

A different ambiance manifests beyond Elephant pass.   It’s unique, distinct.

Ladies on bicycles

20170930_131213
Don’t forget the handbag. Multi-tasking with ease!

— scooters and motorbikes –

Neatly draped sarees and all …

Scooters/ motorbikes are the new, affordable middle class family vehicles –

20171002_180015
Not a single car to be seen in this parking lot

 

 

IMG_3044
Gentleman clad in traditional sarong, climbing nimbly on 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A plethora of Hindu temples at every corner –

Temple architecture is typically South Indian …

20170930_132123

IMG_2949 (1)
… and dozens more under construction.  (Protective ‘cadjan’ screens made of coconut leaves)

 

 

 

 

 

Ancient deities –

– worshipped in nooks and under spreading trees –

IMG_3094
Ancient (could this one be from as far back as a thousand years, I wonder) and …

20171002_152133
… relatively modern.  An occasional Roman Catholic icon in a glass box.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sages and ascetics, some long dead ..

… and some still very much alive —

20171002_181015
Those burning eyes …

A distinct, bright South Indian flavour in the traditional women’s fashions –

20171002_180858
The mannequins in the shop windows are very European-looking!

One-of-a-kind cuisine –

20171002_075021
Couldn’t  get enough of thosai (crisp, savoury crepes) with its spicy, vegetarian accompaniments

20171002_180744
Vadai (savoury ‘donuts’ with a hole in the middle) for sale in display case

 

 

 

 

 

 

‘Holy’ cows roam the streets unchallenged —

20171002_183916
Foraging for food in a pile of garbage

IMG_3102
All dressed up and nowhere to go.  Wearing a coronet of green leaves and tethered to the premises of an ancient temple undergoing reconstruction

 

 

 

 

Ubiquitous stray dogs- 

IMG_2307
… or in packs. (These guys growled and barked as we walked by, till someone stepped in and shooed them off. Thoughts of dog-bites and rabies made for some unpleasant momentsn

20171001_172909
By themselves (this one has made a hollow in the soil and slumbers unperturbed in the hot sun as hundreds of people mill around him ) …

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 A conservative culture still –

Check out  the sign, Judy.  Chuckling with you …

IMG_2832
In three languages. Wise up, folks! Big brother is watching you … 

Discreet couples sneak into quiet corners away from the prying eyes …

IMG_3014
… and somehow a stray dog will find you!

20171001_171853
With a  cellphone, of course …

A certain demureness about the young women.  Untainted grace and elegance.

Long tresses, often worn in a single braid, still the order of the day  –

Post-war phenomena: 

(1) Shopping malls boasting …

… beauty parlours and bright billboards 

IMG_2340
For the emancipated post-war woman ..

IMG_2338
... and a banner advertising lingerie. (Someone must be blushing!)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(2) Supermarkets –

Shopping in airconditioned comfort versus haggling over prices at the local market …

IMG_2353
Bombay onions and manioc (cassava) – locally grown produce

(3) Upscale tourist hotels –

(4) Mobile phones –

IMG_2983
Hunched over and lost to the world. The universal body language of the millennial

IMG_2726
Even on temple premises …

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(5) … and Tom Cruise!

20171002_174738

 

 

Niranjan slowed down to point out the ruins of the old Kachcheri –

The bombed remains of the Kachecheri (district secretariat), a maginificent Dutch-era seat of administration.  It’s modern replacement sits across the street ..

and other landmarks around town :

 –   The Jaffna Public Library and clock tower –

IMG_2315
The Jaffna library, home to priceless ancient ola leaf manuscrips, was burned down in the ethnic conflict.   This is the rebuilt, state-of-the-art building.

IMG_2310
Old clocktower undergoing restoration

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

IMG_2523
Sangilian (died 1623), bloodthirsty last ruler of the Jaffna Kingdom,  overthrown by the Portugese colonial lords

IMG_2525
Sangliliyan’s ‘thoppu’ in Nallur,  gateway to the Kingdom of Jaffna.  All that remains of old glory.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lingered awhile in the amazingly well- preserved home of King Sangilian’s minister.  

How it survived the war is a mystery …

IMG_2551
This treasure of cultural history squats unannounced and uncared for.  There’s no charge to go in, no one to supervise visitors.  A hang out spot for the town’s bored youth, who probably are responsible for the graffitti smearing the walls.

 

IMG_2550
The  architecture takes my breath away

 

 

 

 

 

 

  – The teaching hospital

IMG_2333

 

 

–  And ever-present phantoms of the past

IMG_3112
Haunting memorial.The shell of a torched train sits at the very end of the rail route to the north.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

Remains of once-magnificent Dutch-era architecture –

IMG_3169
This beauty is being renovated to serve as a banquet hall

20171002_171526

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Click here to take a haunting walk through the shattered ruins of an old Dutch-period mansion.)

IMG_2321

Carefully slid camera under barbed wire fence to get this one.  No one could identify the sprawling ruins, probably a palace, across the street from our hotel.  The damage is definitely pre-war, from ceturies of neglect.  Thick tree trunks grow out of remnants of walls.

No fanfare or signage for many ancient abandoned Hindu worship-places squatting by the roadside  –

IMG_3072

A sense of unhurried uncomplexity about life in this region.   As if it’s just awakening from a long sleep.

IMG_2470
Manual labourers off to work with a ‘mammoty’ an implement that has served generations before them.

20171002_180730
Just chillin’

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

20171002_174840
Pausing in traffic to chat with a pal

 

IMG_2658
Only a dog in sight. Patiently awaiting customers

     

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

20171002_175903
Questions of life.  All the time in the world to ponder 

20171002_174947
Gentle afternoon stroll

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

20171002_175259-1.jpg
Time to share some news.  Cops are people too, you know …

Fluorescent lights, after-sundown markets and shops groaning with made-in-China and other items in varying violent shades of neon –

IMG_2332
Brisk sales at the food carts 

IMG_2358
Intriguing shop sign: For Guys

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

20171002_181948
Tailor pauses to pose

20171002_182007
Business booms at the mobile phone centre

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The three-storey Rio Ice Cream parlour with its wide variety of modestly-priced sundaes, is the place to visit these days.  

A constant stream of tourists spill out of loaded buses …

The place is popular with couples anxious to hide from nosey parkers.

In a culture of arranged marriages, young women have to be cautious about ‘spoiling’ their names and ruining future ‘chances’ …

Popped in at Aunty Sothy’s old house, occupied for years by the LTTE and then the military.  Street numbers and names have changed.  It took some locating.

IMG_2771
Kind lady who answered the door, let us in and showed us around.  The house looked different from when I visted last at age 16

IMG_2782
An eyesore of a concrete underground bunker, legacy of the LTTE , occupies most of the backyard

 

 

IMG_2780
Ice-cream pink outhouse now serves as a storeroom

Then on to some vanishing landmarks of the LTTE –

 –  The unmarked site of the slain Tamil Tiger leader, Prabhakaran’s home –   

IMG_2699
Government forces have flattened the house of the slain Tamil Tiger founder and leader, Velupillai Prabhakaran. A flat, scrubby, weed-ridden property is all there is to see.

IMG_2698
Determined not to forget. Graffiti in Tamil on the boundary wall stubbornly proclaims the name of the former  LTTE head

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

– and the remains of a Tamil Tiger  war-themed children’s playground   –

Built for children raised to hate and kill.  Sent unpleasant chills up my back  …

Must-see tourist spots –

IMG_2655
Supposedly bottomless, this water source has recently been found to have a depth of around 150 metres.  The site, like most tourist spots in this area, is still unglamourous and free of tawdry tourist ‘hoopla’. 

IMG_2654
Steps leading back up from the well

 

 

 

 

 

 

IMG_3052
The legend goes that a princess who was born with a horse-face, was instructed by a sage to bathe in this pool.  She obeyed and supposedly emerged from the waters  with  a normal woman’s face ..

IMG_3055

 

 

 

 

IMG_3051

 

IMG_3056
… She was worshipped as a goddess and a Hindu temple  erected on the site.  Note the horse faces on the standing statues

IMG_2833
17th century Portugese-era fortifications, now undergoing intense government-sponsored restoration

20171001_165911_HDR
The fort was a high-security zone during the war.  A part of it is still occupied by the military.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Fort Hammenhiel  –
  • IMG_2993
    Approach to Fort Hammenhiel (literally heel of Ham), the old Duch Fort on a little island, a short way from the coastline.  It’s now a hotel/ resort operated by the navy.   

    IMG_2962
    Fortifications of fortress visible from the mainland beach

       

 

 

 

 

 

 

There is a more evident Buddhist presence these days, in this former enclave of Hinduism –

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

Sunday morning service at St John’s Church, Chundikuli, where Mum’s parents were married –

IMG_2378
St. John The Baptist Anglican Church, a victim of war, recently restored and modernized .

 

IMG_2376
Sung communion in Tamil.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

20170930_134537

 

Click here to sing along in Tamil with the congregation of St John’s …

20171001_102742 (1).jpg
Friendly assistant curate

20171001_085243 (1)
The congregation files outside after service, to shake hands with the officiating ministers and linger for a cup of tea.  Lovely, leisured provincial customs 

 

 

The minister gave us access to old vestry records …

The ones that survived …

20171001_102946 (1)
Turn back time …  records and updates continue to be written by hand

20171001_103307
Husband and I both recognized names from our family trees in the surviving graveyard records.  Amazing …

 

 

 

 

 

… and introduced us to David, who led us to the little churchyard –

IMG_2415
David, the church sexton, who remembered husband’s great uncle and aunt in the village of Kopay

IMG_2420
David unlocks the gate, warning that the graveyard has sustained damage and been neglected for years.

IMG_2449
Handwrittenrecords in hand, David searches for our ancestors’ graves …

 

 

 

 

 

… and pointed out tombs and monuments of interest –

 

Such a thrill to locate the site of Mum’s grandpa Charles’  grave …

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

Niranjan invited us to visit his ancestral home.

20171001_130552
A pause to pick up the  keys from his aunt, and Nirangan drove us to this beauty of early 1900s architecture

IMG_2630
A typcial central courtyard, with doorways leading into the rooms around it.

20171001_125651
Wood-burning hearth in the kitchen

IMG_2631
Antique furniture in the bedrooms

 

 

20171001_130229
Outhouse.  The home has no indoor plumbing.

20171001_130512
Well for bathing and drinking water

 

 

     

 

 

He shrugged  when I enquired enthusiastically if there were plans for restoration and renovations in the near future.

“Who has the money?”  

Framed family photos still adorn the walls, dusty books distintegrate on cupboard shelves, clothing and kichen untensils scattered on  the floor  while a rusty parrot cage languishes in the yard outside –

Signs of hasty retreat …

Me: Is there any bitterness in your heart, Nirangan?  

Niranjan:  No.  The people of the north accept that war is a political machine.  Soldiers are paid to do a job and follow orders.  Without acceptance and forgiveness, there is no way of moving on. Besides, we are tired of war and the stagnation it brings.”

Niranjan was born into war, a child  of the horrendous ethnic conflict that saw a death toll of over one hundred thousand civilians.  His eyes clouded over when he described the growing up years without electricity or leisure activities, when he had to do his homework by the light of a kerosene-fuelled hurricane lamp.  When there were no sounds of boys playing cricket in the dirt lanes outside the garden gates.  When no one dared step into the dusty streets after sundown. When schools ceased to operate, childhood ceased to exist and young people disappeared, never to be seen again. When every young man was suspected of being a terrorist and subjected to  unspeakable horrors, or seen as a potential recruit for the Tamil Tiger cause and expected to perpetrate such horrors.

He talked of  the time he was conscripted into the LTTE, months before the end of the war –

Against his will …

– and  when the militants surrendered and the army closed in.  The memories grew ugly and burdensome. He changed the subject.

Sometimes the eyes speak what the lips cannot utter.  There’s a heaviness in the air …

Nirangan:  No more tears.   Why dwell on the past?  Sinhalese is spoken on the streets as much as the Tamil language now.    

I asked if I could write his story and he  agreed to sit down and talk the next time I visited Sri Lanka.

IMG_2623
Driver/guide Niranjan outside the ancestral home in his village, built in the early nineteen hundreds.  His brothers and sisters all reside in the west.  He opted to return to the land of his birth from where he’d fled, to take care of his widowed mother. 

I purchased a hurricane lamp –

20171130_134959
This blue kerosine oil lamp sits on my dressing table

20171002_181714
Bought it from this soft-spoken vendor who respectifully bore with my halting Tamil

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A souvenir to remember the many years determined young people of Niranjan’s generation excelled academically despite deprivations and hindrances …

And now I should return to the beginning and the jungle-graveyard in Tellipalai, shouldn’t I?   But I’m all out of time, Judy.  I’m so sorry.  In the next post, I promise. Probably not until after the New Year though. 

Tons of Christmas stuff still to get done .  I’m really behind this year …

If you should happen to know anyone who’s thinking of exploring Sri Lanka in an off-the-beaten-track sort of way,  I would recommend Jungle Fowl.  The service is personal and prompt.  The team is with it, knowledgeable and passionate. An exciting, different kind of travel service, to be sure.

                                        

Stay warm, my friend.  Loving this country as I do, the tropics still run in my veins.  I’d be happy to remain indoors from December all the way to March, if I had the choice.

facebook_1512657689514
Passionate crusader and spokesperson for ALS. (Judy holding her mixing bowl and rubber chicken spoon. Someone’s coming to borrow it.)  Click here to read Judy’s story in Love Those Bhangra Boys!

.facebook_1512506743118
A math teacher once upon a time, she inspires with her positivity and passion for groanworthy puns.  Judy communicates by typing on an Ipad-type tablet she calls her ‘boogie board’.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So thankful for the freedom we take so much for granted in this wonderful country of my adoption.  

God keep our land, glorious and free,

 Oh, Canada we stand on guard for thee …

Merry Christmas, my inspiring friend.  You are a truly remarkable lady.

IMG_20151217_101209
Merry Christmas.  Peace on earth, goodwill to all … 

20171206_102615
Rainbows  downstairs, on the Reason for the Season. 

 

 

 

 

 

Thinking of you with affection.  

All my love until next time,

sincerely

  THUMBS UP ! To like my Facebook page: Click here

Suddenly Sometimes

Ever noticed how suddenly-sometimes serendipity seems to occur most when the sun is shining and summer seeps into one’s heart, bubbles over and spills out in splashes all over the garden?  It almost feels as if this sweet summer state of mind creates a catalyst that activates a sublime sequence of inexplicable events.                

Like the time Bernadette called.  “The Town is giving away compost.  Want to go?  I’ll pick you up.”

I went.

The sight of eager townsfolk feverishly shoveling free compost, piled up in the parking lot, into bags and bins didn’t inspire me.  The stream of comings and goings to and from the main building however, was intriguing.                                                                                                        

Woo hoo! Community garage sale …     

 Bernadette laughed when I mumbled, “I’m going to look for treasures for my garden.”

IMG_20170504_182515
That’s me!

I heard “Junk Lady” as I hopped out of the vehicle.

My friends know me too well!

 

 

 

I picked up a bunch of beauties for mere coins.  Like these –

IMG_9651
A wall mirror to create the illusion of an open doorway on the fence in the backyard

IMG_9648
A toy scooter to use on the deck as a stand for a flowering potted plant.

 

 

IMG_9546
Three of five forlorn, unclaimed items remaining on the book table.  1917 publications. A century old.

 

 

 

And then I stopped in my tracks as some old books caught my eye.  

Me:  “How much?”

Bored vendor:  “How about a dollar fifty?  Fifty cents each.”

I set the coins down and scooped the volumes up, unable to believe my luck.  There were two others still  languishing on the table. 

“I have a quarter left and a TTC token,” I dared to venture.  “Would that be payment enought for those?”

Bored Vendor:  “Sure.  Someone could make use of the token.  This stuff is junk anyway!”

He was in a hurry to pack up and leave.

I handed over my last coin and the transit system token, picked up my booty and scurried away in case someone should have a sudden change of heart.

James 4:2 You do not have, because you do not ask …

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

This rollicking suddenly-sometimes ride commenced a week before, when Evelyn and I sat down to enjoy a Japanese bento box lunch, and the conversation turned to gardens.  

IMG_20170508_185927
That’s me!  The only gardener in the family, actually.

Evelyn:  “How’s your garden doing? Done planting yet?     

Me: “No.  Haven’t even started.  I haven’t had time to buy the annuals.”

Evelyn: “Have you tried Costco?”

Me:  “No.  We’re not members.”

Evelyn:  “I am. I’ll take you.”

So off we went.

Nothing caught my eye in the garden centre.

But …

On our way out, we passed the  mobile phone sales centre, and I remembered my phone.  It had been gasping at death’s door for a while. 

I paused.

Me: My phone is a bit of a dinosaur. I need a new one with a good camera, but I’m not willing to go above my present monthly payment.

Pleasant Salesguy:  No problem. How much do you pay now?

I told him.  I had an exceptionally good deal, he said.  I knew that.

Pleasant Salesguy: Are you willing to go ten dollars more a month?

Me:  No!  I don’t use my phone enough to justify a higher monthly payment.

Pleasant Salesguy:  So you want a free new phone with a great camera for the same amount that you pay now – or less – right?

Me:  I know, it sounds like awful cheek, doesn’t it?

I turned to go.

Pleasant Salesguy:  Wait, wait …

He continued to scroll down, squinting at the screen in front of him.

Evelyn assured me she wasn’t in a hurry.  I rolled my eyes and sighed.

Then –

Pleasant Salesguy: Found it! There’s a loyalty deal and you qualify …

Music to my ears …

So I get a  free phone worth $700, and my monthly payment is four dollars less than previously.   My current phone, I’m told, is worth no more than $150, brand new.

Me:  I’ve been to every mobile provider I could think of.  When I tell them what I’m looking for, they look down their nose at me like I’m cheap. Or they talk down to me like I’m someone’s grandma, shrug and turn away.  So how come you found this one for me?

Pleasant Salesguy:  Because the mall guys work on commission.  It’s not in their interest to spend time looking for deals in the customer’s favour.  I’m a paid employee of Costco.  I’m not on commission.

Me:  On a scale of 1 to 10, how would this phone rate against my old one?

Pleasant Salesguy:  It’s an 8!  What’s more, check out the camera.

Evelyn and I pose.  I click.  We look ten years younger, the lines all automatically air-brushed away.

 Me: Wow!  Wow!! What a selfie!  …

 Pleasant  Salesguy’s name is Michael Blumenfeld.

20170510_151455
Michael Blumenfeld, Sales Manager, Wirelessetc.  Superlative, swept-me-off-my-feet customer service

And that’s not all.

I asked for an upgraded phone cover and screen protector and he gave me $125 in Costco gift cards to pay for them.

Me:  How come?

Michael:  Because this is Costco!

And there’s more …

The screen protector I chose was not in stock, so Michael made a call and arranged for me to pick it up from the mall closest to my home.

I’m elated.  Quite weak at the knees, to be honest.  Evelyn’s jaw’s dropping.  We’re both bewildered by the spectacular customer service …

Daughter squeaked when I showed her my phone at the end of the day.  “Where did you get that?  I’ve wanted an LG forever!  They say it takes the best pictures.”

She almost passed out when I told her how little I was paying for it.

I couldn’t stop talking at dinner that night.  About the amazing deal.  About Michael and the unbelievable customer service.

So we all four of us marched into Costco the next weekend with Grandpa and Grandma (and their Costco card) in tow – Husband, daughters and I – waving my contract with Michael’s business card attached to it.

The service was disappointing. Lack-lustre. The two young fellows at the counter seemed to barely tolerate us.  Kind of felt like we were a nuisance.

Daughters exchanged glances and threw me a funny look. 

“So where’s the customer service you kept on about?”

We got the loyalty deal for two more phones.  Husband pays two dollars and fifty cents less than I do, because he’s the second line on my account.  Husband and Daughter also got $125 each in Costco gift cards.  ONLY because I already had my contract through Michael and requested the same deal for the rest of the family.

There was enough left over, after paying for the extras, to buy trays of flowering annuals for the garden, a set of LED walkway lights, and a rose bush for Grandma.  Compliments of Costco. All because Michael Blumenfeld never made me feel stupid, and took the time to dig out a deal that finally embraced my family as well.

Young Fellows were indifferent, when we were done, and looked relieved to see us go.

I assumed, because of my initial experience, that exceptional customer service was the norm at Costco Wirelessetc.  I understood otherwise on my second visit. It was Michael who went out of his way to make this customer’s day sparkle.

IMG_9659

Husband and Daughter had to return to the location the next day, to pick up their not-in-stock screen protectors.  

“Pick them up from your local mall?  Sorry. No way!”

“But Michael arranged for me to pick it up from …”

 “Michael is the manager, he can do these things …”

Evelyn mentioned that if she’d chosen to take me to the other Costco location she shops at, the mobile phone sales section would not have been visible from the vicinity of the garden centre. So I’d never have seen it to remember the worn out dud I had in my possession.

Such a smooth-as-silk sequence of events that led me to three valuable vintage books and a brand new top-notch cell phone.

Sweet, surreal, sublime, suddenly-sometimes serendipity …

It was not about Bernadette and free compost, or about Evelyn and the garden centre at Costco after all.  

So thankful.  For Evelyn and her Costco membership.  For Bernadette.  For Michael Blumenfeld at Wirelessetc.  And for my fabulous new phone, of course, and the old, old books …

Love how life works when one leans in and listens. 

20170531_164621
Never miss a moment. (Taken at Walmart.  Most folks are proud pose and flash their captions.)

20170518_121850
On a friend’s coffee table

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

IMG_20170508_183308

 

There’s more.  Lots and lots! 

Next time!

Until then,  

sincerely

THUMBS UP ! To like my Facebook author page: Click here

20170515_142719
Parked outside the doctor’s office

Love Those Bhangra Boys!

 Life is full of appointments – to be kept or missed as one chooses – delicate deviations from the daily script.  Sometimes showing up in the form of inner impelling, an inaudible whisper, they urge one to reach for the moment and grab it by the horns, before it dissolves and vanishes un-met, unrecognized.

Gotta grab that camera  before the light moves on …

Rainbows on the ceiling won’t linger long , nor shadows on the carpet …

So one halts to act. Because such moments will not be put on hold. Because the tide of micro-events ebbs and swells, leaving behind the joy of happy happen-stance embraced or the tragedy of serendipity unrealized.

The timing of such things is fragile, precise and never a coincidence.

NEVER a coincidence …              

                                      ……………………………………………………………………………..                                 

I had a nagging urge one busy afternoon, to check my Facebook page. 

I’m not one of those Feverish Frenzied Facebook Fiends … honest!

 The screen on my phone opened up at a video clip on Cousin Preman’s page.

Click …

Jaunty young men with beards and bright turbans leap and prance, holding hands with a delighted woman.

A birthday Bhangra serenade!

FB_IMG_1494345124077
Maritime Bhangra Group

The woman in the motorized wheelchair beside herself with glee, claps her hands and beams.   

Her eager, electrifying enthusiasm smacked me in the face.

 Check out  the birthday Bhangra dance.   Click here …

I hit like, stabbed the comments section with a forefinger and tap-tapped:

An amazing lady, God bless her.  This resonates with my heartbeat.  I’ve lost two close friends to ALS .

Later that evening my phone went ping.

Email alert …

 A message via this blog’s address from Next Week on Thursday (Sneak Peak) (on the header menu) 

You have made such a difference in my life this afternoon (I read). Your reply to Preman started it all. I SO want to connect with you. I SO want to find out about the next Thursday. Having gone through cancer yourself, you know the deep JOY of living .

Curious, I leapt into her Facebook page.

The intro read –

I am a joyous person LIVING with ALS with my loving husband, Cameron, always at my side.

FB_IMG_1493652680807
Something about the way she smiles … (The Facebook profile picture ‘with Cameron at my side’)

I got punched in the guts.  I’ve lost two good friends to this brute, a cruel, merciless, relentless ogre that steals and destroys –

ALS.  Lou Gherig’s disease … 

 – and I’m passionate about raising awareness.

Who IS this woman?

Surprise!
Who’s that girl?

The name is Judy Starritt

Enjoying the evening
“Who me?”

                     

#3 I choose my joy!
Sky’s the limit, baby!

Codeword:  JOY!  

This says it all
Christmas lights in her yard

 A person like you and me who’s –

       (a) A once-upon-a-time high school math teacher                             

FB_IMG_1494338035175
I didn’t, actually! A Math pun from Judy’s Facebook page.

(b)  Some mother’s beloved daughter

.facebook_1495038514645
Two peas in a pod and tea for two. Judy (right) and her mama

  (c)  Her boys’ mom

Left over right
Mama, me and brother makes three … (Judy and two of her three boys)

Our sons or Charlie's angels
Brothers united, Judy’s gems. The three Starritt boys

Timothy's diapers
Comely young mother.  Judy hanging diapers out to dry

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(d) Doting Grandmama and

Grandad, Grandma, Findlay and Eamon
A sampling of Starritt munchkins

(e) Adored wife of –

Drum roll … Ladeez a..a..nd  gentlemen, presenting the one, the only   …

      – Cameron Amos Starritt 

Ya …ay!

#16 My, he looks like Cam
Ta da !  Cam: “I’ll be your leprechaun and sit upon an old toadstool …”  

.facebook_1495038061829
Cameron Starritt.  That’s her man.

                 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Many hats Judy wears.  She sparkles, she shines.  She’s extraordinary.

 A wheelchair won’t vanquish her spirit –

New transportation
Off on a summer sortie on the motor scooter

20140831_180349
Steppin’ out of the shadows (Judy, centre)

                                                                                Disease daren’t define her.

Judy:  “I have discovered I haven’t changed, just my body has changed.  I am more intensely aware of both the changes in my body and the JOY that surrounds me …”

.facebook_1495038029728
Joy for Judy: Posted on her Facebook page

Shortly after her diagnosis  in 2014, ALS awareness (literally) deluged public awareness in the form of the Ice Bucket Challenge.

Judy:  “It was as if ALS suddenly came out of the closet!”

Her firefighter son took on the challenge with gusto –

Click here to watch Judy at Andrew’s side in the Hot Firefighter Ice Bucket Challenge … 

  –  as his mother prepared herself to face the inevitable new normal.

Judy: “I made up a motto for myself and shared it with others … ‘I have faith and hope, I am optimistic and I will find joy every day.’”

.facebook_1495038303049
Draped in Joy with Joey Shipley

Loved watching the ocean
And she does …

I so identify with Judy’s resolve.  When late-diagnosis breast cancer crashed-landed on me  in the summer of 2008, I determined to live each day with joy.   However many – or few – of them remained. 

Me to self:  “I won’t waste a single moment of my cancer!”  

Judy won’t waste her ALS.

Kindred spirits or what?

.facebook_1495038413022
Come on out of that shell! (Judy pounding a maritime lobster treat)

Judy: “I looked for joy – unexpected happiness – and began to find it in the most unexpected places.”

Judy: “At first I would recite this over and over in my head.  Now I just accept it because I HAVE found JOY and mentioned it is nearer than you think.”

FB_IMG_1493652523742
Joy at the window, xylophone rhapsody by Cam.

Our official onboard photo
Say, “Cheeeeez!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some snippets from e-mail newsletters to family and friends –

“If you are wondering, I did find JOY every day!  I don’t want to sound superhuman … I DO have dark moments about the future at times, but by keeping myself busy and surrounding myself with positive people that love me and knowing I have so many people out there, caring and praying for me, this journey is SO much easier.”

“Every day became a special one.  I have so many reasons to smile.”

Like them wild chicken stockin’s and a brand new volunteer-constructed ramp …

“As I started out my journey with ALS, I made up a motto that I wanted to represent what I have, what I am and what I want.  As many of you know, I composed the following –

I have hope and faith

14344254_10157375472105543_4424233400221179271_n
Judy: an infection of joy

I am optimistic

I will find JOY every day.

FB_IMG_1493652664855
And oh, she does …

 

“Just had to look out the back windows to find my joy.  I told you once that JOY is nearer than you think!!”

FB_IMG_1493652549791
Joy out the back window: Cameron and the chickens!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“I will participate in the ALS walkathon.”

Since she made that last statement above, Judy has inspired three ALS Walk Strong teams to join Halifax and Virtual Walks!

Judy Starritt is probably the unofficial poster girl of the ALS Society of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia (www.alsnbns.ca).

Her story is on their blog. 

Click here to read about Judy’s journey: ALS In The Words Of Judy Starrit …

I contacted Kimberly Carter at the the ALS Society  for permission to use information from their website

FB_IMG_1493652579614
With JOY in the background. Judy (left) and Kimberly Carter of the ALS Society New Brunswick and Nova Scotia (seated right)

Me to Kimberly:  Any friend of Judy is a friend of mine.

Kim’s reply:   I’m the same way, any friend of Judy’s is a friend of mine. I just love her half to pieces.

Yes, there’s certainly something about Judy …

 

 

…………………………………………………

It’s ALS Walkathon time of year again on June 10, 2017.

You’d find posted on Judy’s Facebook Page:

MAY the 4TH be with you and me and the ALS Walkathons across Canada. Today is my official starting date to promote my own team. It is called “Judy’s Joys” and Cameron and I and many more family and friends are going to walk beside me.
It is on June 10th at DeWolfe Park in Bedford. Registration is at 11 o’clock and the walk is at 12 o’clock.
To join my team, go to
www.alswalkstrong.ca

I made a donation (of course) and wrote on my page

Wish I could walk alongside you, Judy Starritt. Brave, beautiful, joyful, you inspire me … Rooting for you in memory of two close friends I’ve lost. Keep sparkling, keep being you. You go, girl … GO!

Join me in supporting ALS WalkStrong 2017.  Click here to donate/ support Judy’s team.  She calls them Judy’s Joys …

………………………………………………………..

Mum often said when I was a girl, “Laugh and the world laughs with you.  Weep and you weep alone.”

Phrased more simply:  “Who wants to be around a miserable grouch?”

Or in Judy’s words (quoting from a newletter update to her circle) –

Find YOUR joy!

You’ll find this picture in her Facebook photo gallery

.facebook_1493652824269

So her home is her haven, not a jail.  She made that choice.

.facebook_1493652741936
The Starritt summer cottage.  Idyllic.  Pastoral.

Life is her adventure.  It’s not unfair.  She made that choice too.     

FB_IMG_1494336925725
Let you love shine.  Follow your dream.  (Close up of the fabric of her caregiver’s outfit)

It helps immensely, of course, to have a wonderful man at your side.

Judy:  Thank God for big men!

The man behind my joy
The big man standing behind the JOY Christmas illumination.  The man behind her joy – literally!

 

                                             

                                                                   

                       

                                       

                                                                   ……………………………………..

Judy:  Eggs come in different shapes and sizes, but they’re all the same inside.  Just like people.

.facebook_1495038142810
From her chickens, with love

Some eggs, like some people,  have stronger shells strengthened not because of, but despite  the circumstances …

Judy wrote on her Facebook page some months back

Since my video went viral, many new and exciting things have happened to me. I tried to read every comment and some just stood out. Selina’s was one of of the them. I replied and a special friendship has developed. Is it serendipity??? Who knows? Who cares?? I delight in her words and she has opened my mind and heart to newer things.

As she has opened my heart  …

Words are powerful. Weapons of destruction or tools of hope.  It all depends on how one chooses to wield them. 

To bless or to curse …

 Judy:  “I will pray that in my lifetime, ALS will become treatable, not terminal …”

Oh, me too!  Me too …

Believers in dreams, you and I, Judy.  With faith, we’ll make them all come true.

1 Corinthians 13:12    For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I         know in part; then I shall understand fully, even as I have been fully understood …

Through the looking glass in my garden nooks …

Judy Starrit has found her Promised Land — that place within the heart, nestled deep inside the human spirit.

IMG_3920
The Promised Land.  That’s what I named our home.

A believing heart, a humbly yielded spirit …

IMG_3923
BELIEVE in mirror letters 

IMG_3922
Sunlight reflected off mirror BELIEVE, creating an inverted splash of word on the bathroom floor

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Codeword:  JOY …

Always!

So thankful for Judy’s joy.  Infectious, unforgettable lady.

To help increase ALS awareness and support Judy’s Joys at the Walkathon, please share this post.  (Scroll down and click on one of the share buttons below). Let’s see how far Judy and her cause can travel. Thank you.

Until next time,

sincerely

PS:  Three cheers for Judy’s beloved Maritime Bhangra Group.

FB_IMG_1494345156043
These Sauve sahibs jump for joy

15940869_1378265405525064_2463268761752486903_n
Hurrah, we made it! On the front cover.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Judy: “Love those boys!”

Click here  and give her Bhangra Boys a thumbs up on their Facebook page. 

Oh, and if you enjoy gorgeously groan-worthy puns like these – 

FB_IMG_1494337676646

FB_IMG_1494336855371

 

 

 

 

 

— you must take a leisurely stroll through Judy’s Facebook page !

THUMBS UP ! To like my Facebook author page: Click here

.facebook_1493653114933
Groan!