You were an inspiration and live on in our hearts
The family has informed us that their Dad and our friend and Champion Ivan is to be laid to rest tomorrow. It’s exactly four months since the death of his dearly beloved Indra and we are all still grappling with grief and trying to come to terms with the fact that because of Covid 19 pandemic, he could only be given a very private funeral.
Sri Lanka – Where was the World? This was the title of the book by Ivan- the Champion – a compilation of his numerous articles, speeches and editorials, a thick volume of over 500 pages.
It is ironic that this world that Ivan questioned remains ‘shut down’ and Ivan –so loved and admired by so many for his unwavering belief in a just and fairer world has to be laid to rest with only the immediate family members present. It seems so cruel on them and so incomplete for us all.
But thanks to Ajith and Corrine- their accomplished children we are able to follow on line the committal on Friday and later on to participate on line in a Memorial on Sunday the 31st, from wherever we are to pray and to pay our tributes to this illustrious son of our community.
The Tamil Catholic Chaplaincy in London was inaugurated in 1992 to serve the new comers from Sri Lanka whose number was on the increase.
As the pioneer chaplain, I felt the need to enlist the services of a couple of well informed senior Tamils who are well settled in the UK and are familiar with the laws and mores of the host country. We were blessed to have Mr Rasa Swampillai and Ivan Pedropillai who were more than willing to help us and that certainly made my work much easier and the committee more coordinated.
That was the beginning of a longstanding friendship and I considered it a privilege to be counted among the inner circle of their friends and families. I am ever so grateful for the way they stood by me and the chaplaincy in times of trials and the numerous challenges we had to face from within and without the community.
Ivan was called upon to lead and preside over the preparations and celebrations of the Silver Jubilee of my ordination to Priesthood which was indeed a memorable occasion. It was there during the function, that Ivan wore the traditional Vetti and National(shirt ) perhaps for the first time in public and to the surprise and amusement of even his families
There has never been a visit to them without Ivan and Indra insisting on sharing a meal or at least a drink with them. They would always keep two envelops ready for me. Indra with stipends for Masses with a list of intentions and Ivan with a cheque for my ministry.
His involvement with the Chaplaincy gradually led him deeper and deeper into the human rights issues of dignity and equality denied to the Tamil community in Sri Lanka. The huge volume of ‘Where was the world? is ample testimony to the way he championed our cause.
‘Nearer My God to Thee’ is a hymn that has come to be sung at funerals but originally that was not meant to be for so. That’s a prayer not for the dead but for the living. Ivan’s life and commitment is perfect illustration of what the hymn was meant to be. To get nearer and nearer to God by the way we lead our day to day lives. We thank God for his exemplary life of commitment to his family, and to the community at large.
As a priest friend I cannot forget two occasions with them. First, when, about two and a half years ago three of our senior couples who meant a lot to me during my long years in London - Rasa and Joyce, Drs Arulraj and Tresa along with Ivan and Indra sat down together and prayed the Rosary and celebrated the Holy Eucharist praying for each other and the community. This was followed by a visit to their familiar Chinese Restaurant. That also happened to be the day when soon after Mass I received confirmation from Jaffna of my return to the diocese for good. Initially they particularly Ivan weren’t happy at all about the news.
The second was in November last year when during my visit from Jaffna I offered Mass with Ivan and Indra at their home in Cheam – they were already house bound. I am consoled that that was the last Mass, they were able to participate together.
And now we look for closure so that we all, particularly their immediate families can move forward and remember Ivan’s life and not just the end; so that we may celebrate our dear Ivan and not have the spectre of Covid19 pandemic foreshadow his life. We pin our love, gratitude and memories on this proposed Memorial on Sunday.
For all the things I can remember, for all the things I have forgotten, for all the things I never got a chance to say, for all the things I will say when I see you again -these words are for you….Rest in Peace Ivan; You were an inspiration and live on in our hearts.