Glamorous, beautifully dressed and always full of life, zest. A gorgeous purple-hued tint in her hair. Pint sized beauty. Always chuckling, laughing. Teasing. Or giving advice. Sometimes unsought which got her into trouble.
Grandmother’s favourite. Her youngest child who went to England and whose enlarged photo hung in a prominent place in the Dining Room. There were pictures of everyone there but somehow Aunty Lorraine’s picture was a little larger.
Back in 1964 when we only had “snail mail”, Aunty Lo would write months ahead when she was going to telephone us. And the entire family would then gather at 10, Nimalka Gardens for her call which was put through by the operator. A crackle on the line, static and then the hello. Us kids could only stand by to see the joy in the faces of Granny, Grampa and her siblings if they were able to get in a word before the line broke up.
When she arrived on vacation, we were all enamoured with her clothes, her looks, her mannerisms. Ditto for her daughter Tamara who was so non-Sri Lankan in colour that you had to remind yourself she was your cousin. (Aunty Lo married a Dutchmen but they later divorced.) Aunty Lo and Tammy gave us a glimpse of a world we could only romanticise about. My Aunty was pictured as the ‘face’ of Shell Company where she worked. Tammy told us stories of schooling in London that we only read about in Enid Blyton books. Her school uniform was … anything but staid.
And each time Aunty Lorraine came she brought her clothes for us nieces. All of us used her clothes for important occasions. There was one dark blue dotted skirt and matching blouse that I think every niece wore for her first job interview. Her clothes were always so “classy” and of high quality. I used one of her blouses for about ten years!!
As Tammy became older, Aunty Lorraine decided it was better to leave her in Sri Lanka and not let her be a latch-key kid. So Tammy lived with my grandparents and my Uncle and went to school with us. When she was older and able to take care of herself, she returned to England but came back to Sri Lanka when her mum migrated to Australia.
By that time Aunty Lorraine had found a wonderful partner and husband in Mick who was as faithful and loving a husband as I’ve ever seen. In fact, Mick reminds me of the Biblical verse sung by Ruth … “Wherever you go I will go, Thy people will be my people.”
He gave up his family to embrace his wife’s family wholeheartedly. To me, a true test of his love was his willingness to dig up and take the remains of Aunt Lo’s cats wherever they went. Yes, I agree, it sounds weird but this was the soft hearted Aunty Lo who loved her cats to distraction. This was how she loved. Unreasonably, madly.
Whenever she came to Sri Lanka, she and Mick would spend their days with my bachelor Uncle (who had looked after Tammy) cleaning out his house, re-painting and refurbishing it. This is a big deal – a big sacrifice – if you know how an old person who dotes on dogs lives. I find it difficult to sit anywhere when I go visit him because the dogs are on the chairs. But I should correct that. It would be a big sacrifice for me … but for Aunty Lorraine and Mick, it was no sacrifice for when you love, nothing is a sacrifice. So they would spend their vacation cleaning the house, refurbishing it and taking Uncle Percy to spend weekends with them.
Uncle Percy is now 94. His memory is fading. He does not know that even as I write, his youngest sister Lorraine lies unconscious in hospital, struggling for life.
She has been suffering from Motor Neuron Disease this past year and has been gradually weakening.
I sent Mick my blog a couple of weeks back to read to her and she found it interesting so just st day before yesterday I decided to write my memories of her for her to read.
Today, we heard she was admitted unconscious into hospital. Life! Life Lord is in your hands. Her life is in your hands.
Last time I was faced with the illness of a loved one I did not know whether to pray or plead.
I have done some reflection since then. And now I am more confident that it is OK for me to plead, to petition to beg for more time. And I am praying, pleading, begging. But most of all this is my prayer:
“God, Heavenly Father, please surround her with your love …. let her know she is your precious precious child …. Mother Mary hold her tight, tight in your embrace .. Blessed Holy Angels surround her … lift her, hold her, sustain her …saints of God be with her ..”
Aunty Lo we love you. We hope that you can hear and feel our love but more than that – God’s love enveloping you. Mick, Tammy, Bri … be strong. Pray without ceasing.