Before the undertakers could move in, Anusha Kumari wrested herself away from her sisters and flung herself on the three coffins, wailing. In an instant, she was left childless and a widow when suicide bombers attacked churches and luxury hotels in and near Sri Lanka’s capital of Colombo.
The toll was highest at St. Sebastian’s Church in Negombo. Of the more than 350 people killed by the suicide bombings that the government blamed on Muslim extremists, about a third of them died at the church in the seaside fishing town while attending Easter Mass.
And perhaps no one lost more relatives than 43-year-old Kumari, whose daughter, son, husband, sister-in-law and two nieces were killed.
They were buried three days later near the church on vacant land that has quickly become a cemetery for the victims.
Kumari, who was injured from the blast, left the hospital to bury her family. Afterward, she reclined in a cane chair at her home, hooked up to an IV dangling from an open window. Gauze bandages covered the bridge of her nose and her right eye. There was still shrapnel in her face.
A photo of her children was on the wall, while on the shelf were small statues of Jesus, Mary and St. Sebastian, an early Christian martyr riddled with wounds from Roman arrows.
She could see her son’s drum kit on the upstairs landing, a gift from his father after doing well on exams, and a school portrait of her daughter. All day, relatives, neighbors and nuns wandered in and out of the large house, offering food, consolation and prayer.
“You won’t believe it, but I had the perfect family,” Kumari said. “In 24 years of marriage, my husband and I never argued. All four of us slept in the same room. Now I have lost everything.”
Tears mixed with blood from her bandaged right eye.
“All these people, they have their own families. They’ll go home and I’ll be alone,” she said.
A brother-in-law, Jude Prasad Appuhami, said his extended family, one of the oldest and most prominent in Catholic-majority Negombo, marked all the religious holidays and rituals at St. Sebastian’s, a Gothic-style church patterned after Reims Cathedral in France.
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