We remember you, Vale, Good Musical Man! …
A Requiem from Dr. Nihal A. G. de Silva
On Monday July 10th Sam went for his routine swim at the Mt. Lavinia Hotel before his evening performance for the Rotary Club. Swimming for an hour before a performance was his routine exercise regimen at whichever hotel he performs. It was about 5.30 PM and the CC camera records him getting out of the pool clutching his chest and making his way to the changing room. He was seen collapsing in the changing room (not recorded) and was carried physically towards a vehicle but he was dead by that time. No CPR seems to have been attempted.
I got word about 6 pm from family and no official statements were to be made till arrangements were finalized. His son Nuwan from San Francisco was to arrive by Wednesday. The body was handled by Mahinda Florists at Mt. Lavinia but not open for public viewing. The body was brought home to 50 Hotel Road, Mt. Lavinia on Saturday morning. and the funeral was on Sunday.
At his request and that of the family there was no big fuss (announcements, notices etc) made about his demise except for a single very simple notice in the Daily news on Saturday morning. Of course, large crowds visited the house all of Saturday (morning and night) till Sunday morning. Ina and I were with the body from 6 PM till past midnight Saturday and again from 7 AM Sunday morning. I was requested by the family to MC the event and I coordinated timing etc without drawing any attention to myself.
The hotels he played at provided complimentary refreshments to all attendees throughout the 2 days without seeking any commercial advertisement.
He was well eulogised by a Buddhist monk before the coffin was closed at which time the Warden of S. Thomas” College also led prayers. The casket was then draped in the College flag while the college song was being sung – the College prefects were the pall bearers as the centenary club members of the OBA (all in their early 80s) could not handle it. I eulogised him again at the crematorium after the casket was rolled out of view and invited the attendees to participate in the Malabatha at their home.
Felicia (wife) and Thasil (brother) displayed great maturity and poise during the whole event with no overt show of grief. They talked to almost everyone individually and this probably mitigated their grief and brought out the positives of the man. Many were seen weeping. Happily, there were no politicians but I did notice some music and cricketing greats visiting with great humility.
Today at 7 PM is the one week Bana and tomorrow is the Daanay.
I have had 11 foreign residents send me their condolences to be conveyed to the family.
Ours was a brotherly relationship, woven together through scouting, music, surfing, walks on the beach, as schoolmates and immediate neighbours. He performed at my wedding to Ina. Ina and he put on a very successful show about a year ago. There was another being planned for November this year for the STC OBA Centenary Club with Sam, Eddie, Ina and some others. Now it may turn out to be a Memory Lane event. There is no one else who can replace the man.
Sam was 80 years and an insulin dependent diabetic taking good care of himself in terms of exercise, diet, medication, sleep etc. He had an occasional beer with me and was never a confirmed alcoholic as some would like to insinuate. He used to contact me for the slightest thing. He had had routine diabetes maintenance blood testing the week before. Incidentally, I was with his dentist this morning and he said he had to custom make a device for Sam as his saxophone put his lower teeth into some sort of cosmetic stress.
May he rest in peace ………