Monday, November 29, 2010

Funeral Sunday

[Belated post]

Today was a funeral day in town. Right outside the gates to the campus is the place that I often go to eat dinner here, the banku bar or chop bar. Last month very close to my birthday the woman who served me my meals died at a very young age. She was 47 and it was quite a shock to everyone that she passed away including me. I knew her sister and felt awful that she had a loved one pass away. She told me that the wake and funeral would be at the end of November and I said I would come. At the time I was not sure where I would be but sure enough the wake coincided with the Thanksgiving party in Accra. I was able to make it back late on Saturday but missed the burial by a few hours.

Today I felt I would make up for it by going to the third day of the funeral. They tend to start on Friday with very loud music and the mourners assembled at the house of the deceased to pay their respects. Then on Saturday there are more religious observances followed by the actual burying of the dead as I mentioned. Sunday is more of a celebration and making a point to pass along a happy spirit to the loved one on their journey to the other side. I stopped by in the afternoon just before most of the singing and dancing was finished to pay my respects. Naturally I ignored a suggestion to wear the funeral attire which is black and red in Ghana and instead I chose something light and cool. I was the only one dressed in a white shirt at the event. First mental note, don't ever do that again. I already stick out a bit and that was no way to make an entrance.

Beneath the tents set up for the occasion I was asked to state my reason or purpose for my journey to the funeral. Before the elder men of the families I spoke into the microphone that I was there to pay my final respects to Linda who had served me my food for the short time that I knew her. I was then given a ceremonial serving of palm wine in a hollowed out calabash husk and I promptly poured it out onto the ground invoking the name of the dead. I liked that aspect of the rights of the celebration. After a bit of dancing I departed and thanked everyone for their hospitality.

Funerals don't always end up being sad here. It seems that the more people get together the more they change their attitudes from grief to an actual celebration and a way for the community to help a family make it through. Everyone contributes a small gift to cover the cost of hiring the DJ (the giant speakers set up at a house usually warn you that a funeral is coming) and the rentals for chairs and tents and the like may set a family back hundreds of cedis, so if they didn't all come out then no one would ever have such an elaborate party.

It was good to get out and be a part of it. Next time I will wear my black shirt.

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