Friday, August 21, 2009

Leave the dead to bury the dead...

Had a most unique funeral experience last Friday that got me thinking about how much as persons we can truly dictate what happens in our lives. We all know what a traditional Ghanaian funeral is like - enough of us had blogged and experienced it before. Jamaican funerals, while less elaborate, can also be costly both from a time and financial perspective. Anyway, I digress, back to last Friday's funeral. There was none of the usual and expected things:
  • There were no funeral invitations;
  • There was a 'burial' and memorial service in one and no wake keeping;
  • There was no elaborate programme with dedications and pictures; there was one picture of the deceased on the cover, and a short thank you from the family on the back page;
  • There were no funeral donations;
  • Lastly, there was no body - he had instructed that his body be given to medicine.
In speaking with my friend afterward - it was her Dad - she mentioned that this is what he instructed, and this is simply what he wanted. Tradition be damned (my words, not theirs), he simply wanted to be remembered for who he was, and not by the elaborateness of his funeral. He wanted to donate his body to medicine, in the hopes that someone else could benefit. And he wanted his family just to simply honor his wishes.

My co-workers were flabbergasted! They just could not (or was that would not) understand:
  • Clearly he was not Ghanaian - he was; and then they needed to verify which tribe;
  • Clearly he had lived outside and this was some foreign notion - he hadn't;
  • Clearly his family should have disagreed - they didn't, they simply respected his wishes, as hard as it was for them to do in the face of tradition.
This morning while on my way to work, the canopy erectors, and the chair suppliers were busy preparing for the funerals that are normal in the Osu/La area at this time of the week. A bit later, the streets will be thronged with persons clad in all the funeral colors, waiting for refreshment and music after doing the church and burial services. Even later, the family will be reconciling the costs, and hoping that the donations will help to settle burial costs. Perhaps all of us could learn a lesson or two - it's while you are alive and the quality of your life that counts, and you can also dictate what happens after you go.

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