A DEATH IN GHANA

A DEATH IN GHANA

Ghanians are well known universally as adoring the dead & paying for expensive, flamboyant funerals.  So much so that the living are often left without resources to carry on, as they take out loans to give the appearance of affluence & later left with nothing.  Often relatives & friends are expected to rebuild houses, provide for airfare for those commuting a distance,  or burial clothes with expensive funerary items for the deceased & the family.  Recently stated by the immediate past Director-General, of the Ghana Health Service, Professor Agyeman Badu Akosa, said that Ghanaians should pay attention to a healthy living and give priority to their health instead of spending all their resources on expensive funerals.

Funeral traditions in Ghana are indeed very interesting & have been adhered to for centuries!  The same practices that their ancestors did, they continue with today.  At some point money became a very important part of life & death in Ghana.  Maybe bartering was a mode to exchange services centuries ago.  Kwame has lost 2 sisters recently in Ghana, that I have written about in my blog.  One was his blood sibling, who died because surgery could not be performed until money was paid up front.  The other sister, referred to as Mum who had raised him with a grandmother, who had lived to be 101.  Imagine living to a ripe old age with the hardships, life brings to the people of that country.  His mother died in the process of breastfeeding him, & he lay there with a corpse, til all returned that day from the field. When a young child loses a parent, a new one is appointed to take care of the child.  Being a widow in Ghana, almost takes me back to biblical times.

Back to the topic!  After death is determined, the body will be taken to the mortuary.  It could be a long time before any funeral celebration can be planned.  Everyone that knew the person, must view the body.  When satisfaction is gained that all that need to view the body, have seen it, then preparation for funeral can begin. After the body has been viewed by all of the village, a funeral is planned which lasts a week.  This is a way of honoring all of the dead who have gone before them.  As Kwame says, “ It is like an American Memorial Day, where we go to honor the dead, who lost their lives in acquiring land for us.”  No body can be buried until the remembrance is done.  Ghanians pour alcohol over ground for remembrance, wanting the ghosts to know that they are remembering them. “We pray to God & worship the old memories.”  Then we slit the throats of sheep, pouring blood on the ground.  Then a feast begins & we eat for 2 days.”  Food gathered from the fields & the sheep that are slaughtered become our repast for our feasting.

Kwame is the tree of his extended family.  He tells me that everyone comes to him for shade. He meant relief from financial problems, wheither health needs, counseling, or just plain substance for daily living.”  Such pressure!  He is very torn right now, not only with pressure to alleviate the financial obligation of this rememberance, but physically feels a need to be in the presence of his past. “I am supposed to be like a son, who will stand there & bury her, but I can’t go.  She toiled for me, raised me , helped me get to America.  She deserves to have me stand at her graveside. It’s hard in Africa, Mummy.”

I have become his American Mummy, his family!  Such a beautiful heart!

Tomorrow, I will have to see about airfare.

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