It is with much sadness that I have to tell you of the sudden passing of Rev Fr Jeevandas Fernando OMI.

I received news of his passing from Bruno and Sarojani via Messenger just before Easter. They had learned themselves via social media, that our dear friend had died, thankfully peacefully, from a heart attack. He was in his late 50’s.

Our dear, joyous, warm and special friend has died. I have seen photos of his funeral, sent before the social media black-out in Sri Lanka since the tragic terrorist events of Easter Sunday. I am thankful we had the opportunity to speak and to receive those pictures. Without them, I would still be in disbelief and struggle to accept that he has died. We often think that larger than life people will live forever. Well, I certainly didn’t consider that we would lose him, so young, so soon.

Over the 10 years that I knew and was in contact with him, Fr Jeevanadas was a man of peace and integrity who had a gift for bringing disparate people together. During wartime, through natural disaster and eventually, an uneasy peace-time, he brought all religions together, peacefully at his school, St Joseph’s College, in his communities, in his church and at the house at the edge of town.

His residence on Love Lane was where orphan children, desperate people, of all beliefs converged and were welcome and safe. Sangamam – coming together. Muslim, Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Catholic, Sinhala, Tamil – and an odd Australian woman called “ZU” who was ‘freelance’ and did her best to sing or speak to a crowd, when asked (not), and who tried to help a community through some very tough years of trauma.

My comfort is – he loved his life, he was devoted to his God and community, loved everyone, was generous, kind, hilarious and bursting with compassion. Wherever he has gone (heaven, he hopes) he is laughing and making jokes. He was such a ‘good sport’ and I know many of you will appreciate him through the stories in my book.

Fr Jeevanadas was very proud of our work and OUR book. Please do him the honour of reading some of his chapters, ensuring that he will not be forgotten easily in the wider world.

I know I speak for Bruno and Sarojani when I say this. I thank everyone – readers of our book and our friends, who have reached out to us with messages of concern and support. Fr Jeevanadas’ passing is significant and a loss for the communities he served in the northern regions of Trincomalee and Jaffna, Sri Lanka. He was a friend and lifeline for many.

My comfort is – my friend is at rest and it is a comfort, that he will not despair or be in anguish about what will be facing his country and people in the coming days and months as conflict resumes in Sri Lanka.

In honour of Fr Jeevanadas, I will continue to tell stories about him in my author talk ( I have 7 of them in May and June) and I know this is going to be raw and difficult. If I cry, I cry. I can’t imagine giving those talks without him in it. It’s already a painful notion, just typing these words, let alone speaking of him in public.

He lives on. Rest in peace, my dear friend.

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