In more than two years in Ghana, I have somehow avoided going to a funeral. I used to say that Ghanaians waste much of their Saturdays on funerals. That is, until I gained a better appreciation for what a funeral here involves.
In the US, you go to a funeral to celebrate and remember the person who has passed. I have been to some services where only a handful of people attended. For whatever reason, those people touched a small group of people.
In contrast, Ghanaians attend funerals not just to celebrate/remember the person who passed but also to provide emotional support those who have lost someone. Thus, even a person who only touched ten people in his life may have a much larger service. For instance, each of those ten people may know 2-3 people who want to offer support and each of these people may bring their significant other, friends, and/or their children. At the end of the day, the service may involve more than 50 people. For those who are prominent, old, and/or loved by the community, then these funerals can be much larger.
About a month ago, Doris, a lady who works in our building, lost her father. I see her every day. Pretty soon I realized there was no good reason for me not to go.
Koforidua is the capital of the misnamed “Eastern Region”. It is nestled in a valley north of the Aburi Hills that I frequently visit. It’s approximately 90 minutes by private car outside of Accra. The drive was reminiscent of the winding roads of Austria. All along the route we saw numerous people getting ready to attend funerals.
Doris and Friends
Doris’s boss left the house at 6am and arrived in Koforidua at 8:30am to attend the church service. Around 10:30am the body was taken to be buried. We arrived after the body was taken to the cemetery. We waited with the family at their compound house in town. They provided water, beer, jollof rice and chicken. Around 12:30pm the family was making its way to Koforidua’s main square. You can see the red and black tents in the background in the photos above. There were four funerals set in the main square.
For the next several hours, there is another funeral that may involve a pastor and music. During this time, attendees are expected to contribute a cash amount to the family. Sometimes the amounts offered are announced over loudspeaker with the name of the person or group who donated. This is to help cover the costs. Doris’s boss returned to Accra at 6pm.
Part of me was interested in staying for the sake of this blog. I could then say I stayed for the whole thing. I decided against it because Koforidua is hot! It felt like it was 95 F in the shade. When I returned home, I took a nap. I still have a headache from heat exhaustion.