Sanjiva Wijesinha -writer and physician

Short stories, Travel and Health Information

Johann ‘Tiny’ Reid: 25th March 1948 – 9th Aug 2014

johann reidI first met Johann Reid on January 17th 1956 – the day we both started school at St Thomas’ College Mount Lavinia.

After the new boys were ushered into our classroom, our teacher Mrs Jacob called us by our surnames and assigned us our seats. Why she randomly seated us next to each other I have no idea – and I found myself seated next to this little boy who I’d never met before.

We smiled shyly at each other – whereupon I stuck my hand out and said “Hello, I’m Wijesinha but my real name is Sanjiva” to which he replied “I am Johann Reid but my real name is Tiny”.

This struck me as odd, since he was no tinier than any of the other boys. In fact he was taller than most of them! Curious, I asked “Why do they call you Tiny when you are not at all tiny?” to which he replied as if it was the most logical thing in the world “Because I have four older brothers and I am the youngest.”

And that was how our friendship started – a friendship that extended for nearly sixty years and was only cut short by his untimely death last morning.

Although profoundly saddened by his passing away, I realize this is a good time to reflect on his life and what he meant to me his closest friend. I mourn his passing – but I am grateful and take comfort from the fact that our paths in Life converged and stayed together for so many years.

There is an old saying that Life is not about getting good cards, but playing a poor hand well. Tiny was dealt a few bad cards in his life, cards that I felt he did not deserve. His own belief however was that that nothing happened without a purpose, and that everything that happens to us, good or bad, is meant to teach us something. Over the last few months when I had the painful task of looking after him and watching him dealing heroically with an illness that we both knew was beyond cure, as he suffered and prepared for death with dignity, I kept asking myself “What is it that Tiny has been given the task of teaching us?”

Looking back at his life, the qualities that I feel were typical of Tiny were fourfold.

Laid-back

First and foremost, he was Laid-back. Being obsessional and overactive myself, often trying to complete yesterday what needs to be done tomorrow, I found Tiny to be the perfect opposite. If someone turned up to him agitated and told him, “Tiny, hurry up, hurry up – the sky is going to fall down today” he would look at him calmly and say, “Umh! What time?” Nothing seemed to fluster him – if he was confronted with a problem, he was confident that God would provide a solution in due time, and it was not his brief to worry. Long ago he had realized what many of us have not – that we cannot control people and events and the only thing we can truly control in this life are our actions. This easygoing quality also meant that I never ever saw him losing his temper.

Loyal

Second was his Loyalty. To his family, his friends, his school, his church group – Tiny Reid was the epitome of Loyalty. Whether it was because of the values his parents John and Pearl Reid instilled into their five boys Claud, Ronnie, Buddy, Barney and Tiny, whether it was because of the culture imbibed from his earliest days playing a team game like cricket, Tiny was a person who could be unfailingly depended upon to think of his team-mates (here, read family, friends, church group, work-colleagues) before himself.

Loving

The third quality I associate with Tiny was that he was Loving – a loving husband and father. When his wife Katie was struck with a devastating illness – just like Tiny later would be, by a particularly rare and aggressive form of cancer – he devoted himself virtually single-handedly to caring for her, the person he treated as the most important human being in his life.

And his twin daughters – to Tiny, these were the very apples of his eyes. I remember them as babies, each of whom could be relied upon to wake up hungry just as the other one was dropping off to sleep! Of course that was a very long time ago, and the fact that those two hungry insomniac babies have turned out to be such fine young ladies owes much to the loving nurture of Tiny and Katie.

Tiny Reid was inordinately proud of his two girls – and later on, the boys they married – and his beloved grandchildren. For him, Nivanka, Peisha, Jon, Michael and of course the four ‘babies’ – Thomas, Annaliese, Imogen and Asher –  were the centre of his universe. A truly Loving family man – this was Tiny.

Language

The final quality I associate with Tiny is his use of Language. I am not referring to his spelling, which sometimes left a bit to be desired – for example, for the past sixty years, he unfailingly spelled the word ‘Saturday’ as ‘Saterday’ despite the best efforts of his teachers, me and even his daughters to correct him!

When I mention Tiny’s Language, all his school-friends and cricketing team-mates will recall with a chuckle exactly what I mean. Tiny Reid was someone who we never heard swearing. or using foul language Despite associating with rough crowds of schoolboys and sportsmen who punctuated their conversations with four letter words, he was an island of propriety. The strongest phrase I have ever known him use in describing someone bad or evil was “dirty beggar”.

Tiny was a cricketer – and a pretty good one at that. But he never indulged in abusing his opponents (what is euphemistically called ‘sledging’ these days’) or even mouthing off when someone dropped a catch off his bowling or he was hit for a boundary.

After his beloved wife Katie died, he was devastated – but he picked himself up and decided to devote the rest of his years to help those less fortunate than himself. He studied and qualified as a counsellor – and whether it was at the Salvation Army or the Parkdale Secondary College where he worked as Chaplain, he dedicated himself to helping others.

Tiny Reid was a cricketer and an athlete, a man who had a reputation for playing a straight bat and running a good race.

He leaves those of us who had the privilege of knowing him with memories of a good man and a Gentle Man – and in my own view, one of the finest who walked God’s earth.

11 comments on “Johann ‘Tiny’ Reid: 25th March 1948 – 9th Aug 2014

  1. Sonali Dias
    August 10, 2014

    Lovely tribute Sanjiva and I am sure he would have been an equally proud to have had you as his loving and loyal friend. God bless

  2. Hiran Fernando
    August 10, 2014

    Sanjiva, Thank you for this appreciation, more than that, the painting of a man. It was a shock when I heard that Tiny had cancer, having had to see Katie die of it. If my memory serves me it was several years ago that Yoshida and I picked the two of them from Lakmahal and went for the STC carol service. The last I saw of Katie.
    Since then my wife Yoshida returned and now Tiny, the youngest in the family, but the first to go.

    They have gone before and we will definitely follow.

    You mention Nivanka, his daughter. My sister in law Nivanka is expected in SL shortly. I believe there is a connection.

    God Bless The Reids.

    Hiran

    C.N.Hiran Fernando

  3. Rabin Mendis
    August 10, 2014

    I clearly remember “Tiny” and the many cricket matches we were played together! HE was an awesome guy and I am privileged to have know him!!

  4. Corinne King
    August 10, 2014

    Sanjiva, what a befitting tribute to a dear & loyal friend, your coverage of TIny is so perfect. An exemplary man that has walked this earth & we should be so proud to have known him. May his dear soul “Rest in Peace” & may he be with his beloved Katie in Eternity. Blessings to all the family & those who mourn the loss of a “Special” man.

  5. Chrisantha Gomes
    August 11, 2014

    Having known Tiny as long as you have, since 1956, I fully endorse every word you have said. It struck me that you were right; I had never heard him using any bad language which is amazing. That says a lot about Tiny who was a gentleman inside out. I was happy I took a call to him about three weeks back and bade him a unspoken farewell. May he enjoy eternal rest in the arms of His Lord and Master.

  6. savithri sumanthiran
    August 12, 2014

    Fare_well Tiny. We were privileged to meet you first in Australia and then back here in Sri Lanka. I like to think that you will now say as you always did:

    “When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
    When sorrows like sea billows roll;
    Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
    It is well, It is well with my soul”

  7. Dr asoka thenabadu
    August 12, 2014

    Sanjiva, Although I did not know Tiny, your word picture of him gave me a good idea!Dr Asoka Thenabadu

  8. Mohan Bhagwandas
    August 12, 2014

    Thank you for this truly beautiful piece of writing. I did not know Tiny as closely as others who have written here, but he lives a few minutes drive from my place in Burwood. Something prompted me to call him and go out to dinner at Palms restaurant with him, which I did several months ago. He was in fine health then and full of the new experiences he was having.

    I am so shocked to find that he has gone. I am overseas and only get back to Melbourne on 15 Aug. So I will say farewell Tiny, thanks for being that gentle soul who graced this world.

  9. T Prakash Rudra
    August 12, 2014

    Dear Sanjiva
    Yours was indeed a fitting tribute to a colleague whose qualities truly defined what it was to be a ‘Thomian’. It was reassuring to know that he had a friend to help him through his final days and that he had come to terms with his illness.

    I knew him as a senior colleague in the cricket arena and a fellow of Wood House.
    In both these roles he led by example. May his gentle soul rest in peace. Please convey my sympathies to his family.
    Kind regards
    Rudi

  10. Dr peter vanniasingham
    August 13, 2014

    Thank you for that succinct and glowing tribute to a famous and thorough gentleman of the elite. I never had the privilege of meeting him but I knew of the Reid brothers, being a sportsman myself but much junior in STC. God bless you. Peter

  11. Herschel Gunawardena
    August 14, 2014

    Dear Sanjiva,

    I greatly value the sentiments you have expressed regarding our childhood friend, Tiny and I am sorry that he and his dear wife had to undergo the pain of a prolonged illness. Please convey my sympathies to his loved ones.

    Warms Regards,
    Herschel

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