“How old are you Bernadeen? You don’t seem to have grown older since the first time we met in 2002.”
“I am already at the pre-departure area,” she said, “but only first class has been called.”
“Are you really? You’re so busy with your causes, running here and there, doing God’s work. I don’t think you’ll ever make it to the airport in time to check-in for your last flight..”
(Conversation between Bernadeen and Andrea, January 24, 2007, Colombo, Sri-Lanka)
February 7, 2007
Dear Ewa friends,
I am back home from Sri Lanka since yesterday, I stayed there ten days longer than I planned. The world still seems very unreal here in the Netherlands. This Friday on the 9th we buried Bernadeen.
On Saturday night 27th January I had a dinner with her and Selvy (the Hindu woman at the interreligious panel) at her house and I slept there during the night. The following morning after breakfast we talked with a Buddhist friend with whom Bernadeen worked for a long time and who became a Buddhist nun. During the day Bernadeen felt tired. At night the situation was so that she could hardly breathe, was terribly tired and she was rushed on that Sunday night 28th to the hospital where she was for three days in intensive care. The pneumonia that was detected was attacked with antibiotics and on Thursday she was brought to a single room. She slowly recovered and felt better and better each day. On Monday 5th February she was phoning several people because she felt better and made plans for the coming weeks. On Tuesday, 6th February, a doctor came to her room and wanted to take water from the lungs for an exam (though opposed by her son). His puncture pierced the coronary vessel and Bernadeen died 6 hours later.
The days in her house after her death were very special. Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims, Christians, atheists, Marxists, humanists, leaders, groups and individuals, they all came from different parts of the country to honor her. They were a witness of the huge amount of contacts and networks Bernadeen co organized in Sri Lanka and led.
Bernadeen was an important person in Sri Lanka during almost 50 years in the struggle for ethnic harmony, women’s rights, religious harmony, citizens’ movements, struggle with the fisher people etc… etc… Also in different countries of the west she was a well known person. She was member of Eatwot from the very beginning and also of the Eastern European peace council in the period of communism. She visited internationally many organizations and networks for the work for a different world. For many people life will be different without Bernadeen, I myself lost a dear friend and my home in the country I love.
Let us remember her as a great, loyal, generous and colorful woman who used all the gifts she had generously for the sake of the excluded and marginalized on the personal and on the structural level.
February 7, 2007
I write with a heavy heart for I have some sad, very sad news to share with you. Bernadeen was hospitalized because of an attack of Pneumonia, last week. This morning we got news to say that she passed away around 11oclock last night. I went to see her in hospital, she was recovering from her illness, and she told me , thank God I did not fall sick during the conference. She was talking about the conference and the article on the conference to be sent to the news papers. You know she never stops talking and we had to constantly remind her that it was not good for her exert herself. Lieve is still here and she too is very much involved in the process.
I am deeply saddened of Bernadeen’s passing away. My prayers to those of her loved ones who survive her. Memories of her live on in our hearts. Thank you Evelyn for your suggestion of dedicating the volume to Bernadeen. Pushpa and I had in fact decided to do this on knowing of her demise and we were about to get the CT’s feedback on this. I thank you all for your receptiveness to this suggestion.
Malaysia (EWA Coordinator, 2007-2008)
Dear Canice, Marini, Berns and Lieve, I cannot help but wonder whether the preparations for the EWA 3 conference did not put too much pressure on Bernardeen’s health. You were all such great hosts! Am truly saddened to receive this news of the passing away of an EWA friend and supporter and a noble Sri Lankan woman activist. Please extend our sympathies to her family and friends!
I am so moved and touched reading Lieve’s account of Bernadeen’s involvement in the lives of her people and country. Bernadeen was such a sport, so kind, generous and warm hearted. She has really made a mark on so many of us. I still remember her dynamic words, her spirit is really contagious.
I just opened my e-mail and read the news of Bernadeen’s death. I couldn’t believe it! As I read the e-mail, I found myself back at EWA III and sharing lunch with Bernadeen at the end of the Conference. Andrea asked her how old she was. “Guess!” was Bernadeen’s reply. Andrea guessed “75” and — with a great smile — Bernadeen said “77!” — “I am in the departure lounge, she proudly stated — but they have only called First Class!!” I wonder if Bernadeen had some kind of premonition or feeling that she was getting closer to being called to enter more deeply into the Life of the Holy One. Surely, she was so integrated in her person and in love with all — that it was time to blossom fully.
Well, this is much too long. My heart is with all of you who knew Bernadeen and shared so much of life with her. I can only imagine your shock and sadness and terrific loss. Know that I am with you in heart and prayer.
(to the Coordinating team) I heartily endorse that our EWA III book be dedicated to Bernadeen. What a lovely suggestion – and I can hear her laughing in heaven and just beaming with delight!
I am truly shocked to hear of the sad and sudden demise of our beloved Bernadeen, a true and faithful friend of EWA It is unbelievable that a jovial and spirit-filled person like her had to just slip away from us. Her generous service and availability will be remembered always. When I wished her goodbye, I told her that we would meet again at EWA IV. Quick was her reply – “Opportunities should be given to younger women theologians from Sri Lanka.” Bernadeen enjoys fullness of life with the Lord. We pray she continues to support us through her intercession.
Evelyn Monteiro, scc
Very saddened to hear the news of Bernadeen. In her convictions and simplicity, she will continue to be an inspiration for me. In solidarity, Kochurani
I am deeply shocked and sad to hear of Bernadeen’s passing away. She really gave a lot of herself for EWA III, and then she has left for eternity. It seems that EWA III was her last mission on earth. I pray that she will rest in eternal peace and now intercede for us as we continue the struggle for women in the Church. With sadness, Virginia
Does anyone have good pictures of the Srilankan Skit? I wanted so much to see more of Bernadeen as a little girl. I still haven’t gotten over her passing. In the skit, she was a 12 year old in everyway, so young, innocent, energetic, wonderful. amusing, lovable. I knew she was a little terror at times but I guess we can forgive 77 year olds when they get a little dictatorial sometimes. It isn’t easy being in charge of an international conference and having to take care of more than 35 women. Dear Bernadeen. Reminds me that after we reached home, I did not get to write her to thank her for everything. Now it is too late. Andrea
What a shock to see Fr. Reid’s letter which originally I thought the unknown name as a junk mail to be deleted.
Then the theme “death of Ms Bernadeen Silva” puzzled me. Thanks for Canice’s more informative letter. I cannot get over with this news! The Bernadeen whom I met from EWA I is still so vivid in my memory, she is such a great lady! I surely missed seeing her this time. Please extend my sympathy to her loved ones.
With prayer, Theresa (Yih-Lan) Tsou (Taiwan)
It is indeed a very sad news about the death of Bernadeen. Let us be united in prayers for her in spirit and heart. I wish my hearty condolence for her family and near and dear ones. Rosaline Costa
I attended EWA 1 at Bangkok and I remember so vividly Bernadeen.It was the morning liturgy presented by the group from India and Ceylon. Bernadeen raised her arms and twirlled around singing “I am beautiful.” It was so beautiful to see an older woman acknowledging the inner (and outter beauty) that she had.That was a message for all of us.
I am sad to hear that this festy, loveable person has moved on. Please send my condolences to her family and community. EWA has lost a pillar.
Shalom, Angeline Bones-Fernandez
I just get news that Bernadeen past away. I am deeply shocked and sad. Only a few mounth ago I met her in ATC of EATWOT in Colombo. I have known her since I jointed EATWOT, in the meeting in Manila. I will never forget her spirit to struggle for women. May God give her everlasting peace. I join in prayer with all of you.