ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday, June 24, 2007
Vol. 42 - No 04

Memories aplenty of a young-at- heart uncle

Dr. Patrick Michael Theodore Fernando

Dr. Patrick Michael Theodore Fernando was the youngest of my mother’s five brothers. He was the most loved uncle by his many nieces and nephews because he was special, he was full of love, life and laughter and related best with the young ones because he was ‘young at heart’.

He was 67 years old at the time of his death and was the life of our family. He emanated love from his very being and he extended it not only to his immediate family but to the many little children he healed. This is why there were unexpected numbers both at his funeral service in Tasmania and at the Thanksgiving Service in Sri Lanka.

My uncle had accomplished many things in life, he had still more dreams to fulfil and we least expected him to be taken so soon, but God knows best and I guess God did not want him to suffer at all. I have very few recollections of his younger days, but I gained some valuable information from Uncle Jaycee’s, (my uncle’s closest and very special friend from schooldays and later at Medical College) tribute to him at the Thanksgiving Service we had, and also by listening to snippets revealed by various members of the family.

My uncle was the life and soul of every party, the mischievous one in school, always getting into trouble and doing all the naughty things my grandmother detested. He was famous for his trumpet playing and rocked the Royal-Thomian big matches in his day. I have heard that he and his trumpet were very much in demand for school events. My grandmother’s house was situated at Flower Road, so he would have been easily reachable any time the boys wanted to have fun. Out of the five of my uncles he alone made ample use of the location of the house to play the fool of all the Ladies’ College girls who went by and I am sure he may have been a heart-throb of many.

Combining mischief with steadfastness quite creditably, after completing his studies at Royal College, he was selected to Medical College in 1961. He had topped his batch at Medical College and passed out as a Doctor in 1966 with a Class. Later he specialized as a child psychiatrist in UK and took on the position of Tasmania’s very first child psychiatrist in 1980. He was listed in Australia’s Queen’s Birthday list of honours in 2004 and appointed as a ‘Member’ in the ‘General Division in the Order of Australia’ for services to Psychiatry especially in the field of child and adolescent mental health and to the community through social welfare organization and given the title OME. We were very proud of him.

I have many fond memories of this very special uncle, all of which I cannot pen in an appreciation, but one or two, I have to mention. I remember him teasing me on my first day at Ladies College, when I returned home tired after walking the few steps between my grandmother’s house and school. I must have said something to prompt him to tease me and say I will have to continue this task for the next 12 years. Quite a formidable undertaking for a five-year- old!

I also remember one of his Christmas presents to me was a doll that I named Greeny. Greeny became my favourite and went everywhere with me, played with me and even slept with me until he was replaced by a live doll the day I got married. I also remember Cookie, my grandmother’s cocker spaniel, who was brought in by my uncle against the wishes of my grandmother and expertly trained by two of my uncles. I can still recall how my uncle used to sing ‘How much is that Doggie in the Window’ to Cookie and get her to bark at the precise time. I also remember how Cookie got jealous of me when I came to live in Colombo because I was getting petted and not her. In the early 70’s my uncle went to UK to further his studies. Whilst in UK he met Aunt Sally, who later became his loving wife and life long companion for over 30 years. She too, got very close to the family and graciously allowed my uncle to “freak out” whenever he was with the family. Both of them migrated to Australia when Michelle was a baby and later Martin Fernando Jr. was born in Tasmania.

They visited Sri Lanka practically every other year while my uncle was in full time employment and my cousins were pursuing their studies. Both Michelle who is a lawyer and Martin who is a dentist cum a very successful DJ (strange combination but I believe he takes after the father) have done their parents proud. My uncle retired from state service a few years ago.

After his retirement, with more time to spare, my uncle and aunt have been visiting Sri Lanka quite frequently almost every nine months for short holidays, I enjoyed organizing his stay here and both Ajith and I enjoyed going on trips with him and the rest of the family. However the best trip was when my uncle, aunt, Michelle and Martin accompanied Ajith and me on our honeymoon!

At the conclusion of his visits, it became the practice that the family meets for dinner before saying goodbye. These dinners were fun events with Uncle Jaycee joining us and both of them making it a fun evening, narrating tall stories and jokes and ending with a sing-a-long. Each time it came to the goodbyes my uncle shed a tear because he was sensitive and he was afraid that he would lose another loved one in his absence. Little did we realize that last February would be the last time the family saw him alive and that we would have to say ‘Bye’ to him so soon.

He loved to announce very ceremoniously his proposed trips to Sri Lanka and I still have the email titled “Patrick and Sally will be Arriving” sent by him in February informing me to start making plans for his trip in July. Little did I realize that before that we would have to organize a Thanksgiving Service for his life. His demise has left a huge void in the family. We will definitely miss him in Sri Lanka and more so my aunt and cousins, in Tasmania, but life has to go on until we all meet again.

May he Rest in Peace.

By Charitha Ranasinghe.

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Copyright 2007 Wijeya Newspapers Ltd.Colombo. Sri Lanka.