Anna-Maija Raittila's funeral can be watched on http://www.tuomasmessu.fi/?
-Fr. Cedric Prakash sj*
Dearest Anna-Maija, it is hard for me to believe, that you are no more!
When I first heard of your going home on August 25th, my immediate prayer was one of GRATITUDE: thanking God in a very special way for all you have meant to me and to so many others, not merely in Finland but also in Gujarat and several other parts of the world!
I last met you on April 14th at the Pakilan Hyvan Paimenen Kirkko! I still can’t get over the beauty of that encounter; the way you looked at me and perhaps, relived almost forty years of a very special relationship. That day, I tried to tell you many things, but your only reply was “boi! boi! boi!” I still relish your wonder and joy at seeing me once again and the tears that streamed down your frail face as I wrapped that shawl, (which I carried all the way from India), around you. It was indeed a very special meeting for me and somehow when I wished you goodbye at the end of the programme, deep down within me, I truly felt, that I would never see you again! How true that feeling, has been!
But today, as I join in spirit, several others to bid you a final farewell, I would like to pay tribute to you in highlighting some of those qualities which have perhaps endeared you to so many, all these years.
If there is one single quality which epitomizes you is that of compassion! I have literally seen it overflow from you at so many different times and in so many different ways. It did not matter who the person was: you always took time out to give the other - a little of your time, of your self, of your love. All this, inspite of the fact, you must have perhaps been the busiest person in the whole of Finland!
What struck me, several of my companions and the children of Gujarat, was your ability to reach out to our efforts! You hardly knew us, but you made the Educational Sponsorship Programme (ESP) your very own; bringing little things like the embroidery works from Estonia, from Hungary and from other parts, so that you could sell them in Finland and send the money to us.
The work you have done for our children, the efforts you have made, the others you got involved, truly shows that all along, your heart had no boundaries: it was just compassion!
I have told you this more than once that you were truly “une femme formidable!” as the French would say. It was not because you were a powerful person but because you were “simplicity personified” who had the courage to do things differently. These days, I have been looking at the press clippings and the many pictures of my first journey to Finland in 1987 and I have been reliving those moments when I really could not “keep pace” with you in every possible way!
You left no stone unturned at that time, (and always) to ensure that my travel was not only meaningful but because of your courageous spirit, it would open many doors. In you, I saw spirit that was unrelenting in every way, whatever the obstacles and difficulties.
This courageous spirit is amplified when one is able to grasp the fact that you were able to transcend the narrow confines of denomination, religion, nationality, ethnicity and whatever else, in order to make our world a better place. The Finnish people will surely raise a toast to you, for the courage you personified: as a woman and as a spiritual leader. It was this courage that gave hope to me and to many others.
And finally, I have simply been amazed at your commitment! It has been steadfast and unflinching for every cause, for every person that was near to you. I know how committed you were to your beloved Taisto. Your one dream was to come to India, to visit us and our work; but Taisto would never think of it. He was mortally afraid that something might happen to you over here, so you never did that trip in his lifetime. When you actually planned to do so, God had other plans for you, and sent you the illness from which you are totally free today. Yes, Anna-Maija, to Gujarat you never came, but you have never faltered in your commitment to what we do here.
Above all, your commitment was to the Master. You were his disciple, complete in his image and likeness, giving your best to-all-and-sundry: whether it was your cats in Morbacka, to nature around you or to writing a book or a poem. All who knew you were certain that your commitment was steadfast!
There is so much more that I would like to say about you Anna-Maija, you are a person who has profoundly impacted my life. As a young Jesuit novice, I used to wait for your long hand-written letters and the lovely hand made cards, you would regularly send me during your travels; I still treasure many of them!
During my many trips to Finland, it was always a joy to meet you and to just “give in” to the programmes all across the country which you so meticulously organised.
I can surely go on and on….. but I would like to stop here…. to say a very big THANK-YOU for all that you have meant to me, to the children and the people of Gujarat and to so many others!
At this moment, I take great consolation at the fact that you are enjoying that eternal happiness that you so richly deserve: I also know that from above, you will be watching over me, our works and on all of us here on earth….
So Anna-Maija, till we meet again, “THANK-YOU and GOOD-BYE!”
22nd September, 2012
(A tribute to Anna-Maija on the day of her funeral)
(* Fr. Cedric Prakash SJ is the Director of the Educational Sponsorship Programme of the Gujarat Education Society)
Fr Cedric Prakash sj
Gujarat Education Society(ESP)