Friday, March 28, 2008

Accliamtized : My first Ghanaian Funeral

So, yes, must confess that I have finally been acclimatised into the customs and traditions - well at least one - in Ghana. This weekend I will be going to the funeral of someone I don't know. Was a casual invitation really, but asked in such a way that there was no escape.

My phone rings.
Me: '
Hi, this Denise'

Them: 'Oh hi Denise, how are you?'

Me: 'Am good. How are you...?'

It's been a long time-oh
(technically not true as we had hung earlier this week)

Me: 'True'
(again an acclimatised answer, when in Ghana do as the Ghanaians do)

' What's up?
(oh, the innocence!)

Them: '
Are you busy on Saturday? Do you have any plans?'
(hindsight always being 20-20 should have felt the hairs on the back of my neck stand up, thought it was the blast of air from the air conditioner)

Me: '
Hmm, nothing at all. What would you like to do?'
(visions of food, fiesta and the beach dance tantalizingly to the forefront of my mind)

Them: '
Ok, since you have nothing doing I would like accompany to go somewhere'
(the bait has been laid, the trap set and I now willingly walk in, blinded to everything else)

Me: 'Ok, where and what time?'
( as close to a commitment I could get without saying the three letter word)

Them: 'Oh, I need to go to a funeral and I don't have company'
am brain dead for five of the longest seconds ever!)

'Umm... aah... well... ok I guess'
(am flabbergasted, have accepted an invitation to a funeral for some one I don't even know! Get a grip Denise! Get a grip!)

'Ok, then I will pick you up at 8:00 a.m.' (double whammy, no sleeping late as I am usually wont to do on the weekends!)

Me: '
Well, ummm, ahh. I don't have any funeral clothes'
(attempt to escape number 1)

Them: '
Oh, just wear something black'
(attempt to escape number 1 futile)

'Well I don't really have church type clothes, you know I don't go to church regularly'
(regularly? understatement of the year; attempt to escape number 2; desperate!)

Oh, don't worry at all. Just wear something cool
(attempt to escape number 2 stopped solid)

Me: '
Ok then'
(resigned to my fate)

' Anyway, have to go into a meeting so will call Friday night to get all the details
(palpitations, sweating and breathing hard - am going to attend the funeral of someone I don't know. Get a grip Denise).

And there you have it. I have accepted an invitation to the funeral of someone I don't know. Have gotten over the shock and while I am not looking forward to the experience - how can one look forward to a funeral? -I am sure it will be something to remember.

The last funeral I went to in Jamaica was for the father of a colleague of mine. He must have been a man about town with the ladies as several were there in the latest fashion to-dos. You can imagine the church when one dressed in a short jacket-like dress, cowboy hat with matching cow-boy boots (yes!), bent over her assets facing the mourners to pay her condolences. On sighting her thong, an audible collective gasp went up from the mourners. Needless to say that the sermon was not about life on the other side, but rather on the inappropriateness of certain dresses for church. By the 'hallelujahs' and 'amens' it seemed quite a few people agreed.

On a sadder note, a colleague of mine was recently bereaved (yes, that is how they refer to it in Ghana) and so that will be one more funeral to attend. We spent a bit of time talking about what happens in the Akan (Ashanti) tradition as it was her father-in-law, an Ashanti, that died. Will post that separately though.

Based on what she describes it will be very different from funerals in Jamaica. I think we do have hints of some of these traditions. For example when my father died I remembered old ladies coming to the house and telling my mother that she should only wear black or red panties and keep a tape measure tied around her waist just in case my father wanted a conjugal visit in the after life! Others advised that she should place a one cent coin in his palm, tell him to go to the shop, buy a pound of sugar and wait for change - of course there would be none so he would wait in vain. Even more barbaric - though granted he was dead - was to place a thumb tack in the bottom of his feet so he would find it hard to walk and so couldn't get back to the house.

I remember too my mother just getting so annoyed by the constant stream of visitors who never seemed to have enough to eat or drink! She drew the line when someone requested 'more white rum and a deck of playing cards'. She made it clear after that in no uncertain terms we wanted to grieve alone. Am sure the old ladies had something to say about that too.

Of course I will go to my friend's family's funeral - no palpitations, hesitations or excuses. Will help to celebrate the life of someone, even though I didn't know them. and will support those that I do know and that are still alive.
After all, life is a bit like that isn't it?


Nana Yaw A said...

I just like the texture of this one. I won't comment on Ghanaian content, but the Jamaican part (thumb tacks and all)was thrilling reading. Thank you.

Denise said...

Ok, my next post will be entitled : From thumbtacks to thongs: An expose into Jamaican Funeral Rituals'.

You have an unfair advantage of knowing who I am - say hi next time you see me at Slice of Heaven.