Mama arrived 2 nights ago. Yesterday we went to visit her father. He used to be a tall, big, and fierce man who everybody was scared of, but now he’s old, frail, and weak though his mind is still sharp. When I walked into the room, I couldn’t recognize him as it had been six years. I saw a really old man who looked like what I thought he should look like but I doubted it was him. So small and frail now. Wow, old age!
But that was really nothing compared to what came next. Mama and I had been in a good mood, chit-chatting and such on the way from the taxi to the house when all of a sudden, upon crossing the threshold of the front door, Mama started to wail and cry. Calling out “mother, I’ve come, where are you?”and other such phrases in Nzema. Talk about abrupt change of mood. She walked through all the rooms slowly crying and wailing before she returned to the sitting room where we all sat solemnly. Then she finally addressed her father and asked where her mother was. It was a grand affair that lasted about 30-45 minutes. My mother’s mother (step-mother factually) died last spring. She had been the one taking care of frail old grandfather neglecting her own health. That fateful day, she had just been discharged from the hospital after an episode of hypertensive urgency when she developed shortness of breath at home. When they took her to the hospital waiting room, family members were asked to go to the pharmacy and buy the medicine the doctors needed to treat her. She died presumably from congestive heart failure, before the medicine arrived. That’s Ghanaian healthcare for you, I guess the concept of emergency care has yet to arrive.
Anyway, Mama was unable to attend the funeral, and hence this whole show of mourning. It’s something that has to been seen. My first mourning was of a dear family friend who died unexpectedly while we were living in Germany. The day we heard she died, we were actually getting ready to go visit her in the hospital where she had what I believe was an elective hysterectomy, but I’m not really sure as I was only about 9 years old. My maternal aunt was staying with us so the wailing was on, proper! Mama and her both went on for hours! I remember my sisters and I just huddled watching the show in sorrow and surprise. As I said, it’s something that has to be seen with your own eyes.
That said, funerals in Ghana are truly a grand affair. I have never been to one, though. Funerals are a multi-stage affair that can take days. Yes there is the mourning but it’s more about dressing well, merry-making, dancing, and eating to celebrate the life of the deceased. I mean, you dress up well (red, black, white coloured traditional attire) and prepare to go to funeral – it’s grown people’s party time!!! Then there’s the memorial a year later – another social scene. Honestly, when we were younger, my parents were always dressing up to go to some funeral or memorial every weekend it seemed. It was as if they were going clubbing!
Hmm, all I’m saying is Ghanaians don’t joke about their funerals!