Sir Arthur C Clarke’s funeral was held on March 22 afternoon in a manner that he would have approved: no decorations, no gun salute or any other governmental involvement, no religious rites of any kind, and no funeral orations.
Both his families – the Clarkes and Ekanayakes – were present, as were hundreds of his friends, fans and Sri Lankans from all walks of life. The local and international media bore silent witness. The Sri Lankan police and army soldiers stood by, in silent salute.
Everything went according to plan, and there was no commotion or chaos. Even the weather was cooperative: it seemed as if friends in high places ensured that afternoon thunderstorms that have characterised most of March in Colombo didn’t happen.
Tamara Ekanayake, the second daughter of Hector and Valerie Ekanayake – Sir Arthur’s adopted Sri Lankan family – made a single, short and passionate speech.
“You gave your time, your undivided attention and most importantly love to those around you so readily.
We thank you for the times you listened; we thank you for the times you laughed; we thank you for more than you could imagine.”
“As family, we feel so privileged that you left your mark on us. Your footprint will never fade, if anything it will only magnify what we do.”
Tamara also revealed what Sir Arthur had wanted on his tombstone:
Here lies Arthur C Clarke
He never grew up
But didn’t stop growing.
Goodbye, Uncle Arthur – Read full text of Tamara Ekanayake’s tribute
As wished by Sir Arthur, the funeral was short, secular and devoid of any pomposity that so often characterises Sri Lankan funerals. It was all over in a few minutes.
Sir Arthur’s final odyssey also united all of Sri Lanka’s radio and TV channels, who observed one minute’s silence from 3.30 to 3.31 pm on March 22, even as the author’s burial was underway. Although this unity lasted for all of 60 seconds, it was no mean feat, as the cacophony of over 16 terrestrial channels and more than two dozen FM radio channels almost never speak in one voice (which is to be celebrated as media pluralism). The request for this minute came from the Sri Lankan government whose offer of a state funeral was earlier politely declined by the late author’s family (as he wished no involvement by either British or Sri Lankan governments).
AFP/Getty Images photo shows Sir Arthur’s younger brother Fred Clarke paying his respects to his illustrious brother on March 21.
As Sir Arthur’s spokesman, I also want to thank all our friends in the media – journalists, producers and photojournalists from national and international media – for their interest, cooperation and solidarity in the past few days. Yes, they chased me like a pack of newshounds day and night, but it was all in the line of duty. And I hope they were happy with how I did mine – being always available, willing and forthcoming with information, voice cuts, TV soundbyes and image access.