Thursday, September 3, 2015

Walk Him Up


        Anyone who knows us knows how much we love Broadway musicals. Several shows have as part of their script scenes that move the story line along, scenes that touch on the subject of death. In Carousel in the final scene Billy Bigelow steals a star from heaven and returns to earth long enough to give his daughter the counsel that she has missed all these years from her father and before he returns to heaven he leaves the star that makes his wife Julie wonder about the thin veil between life and life after death. One of our all time favorites is a show called Purlie. Here the show opens with a funeral of Ole Captain. His plantation hands are not sad to see his demise and sing a wonderful song that has in it the lines; "Walk him up, Walk him up, Walk him up the stairs." Few people in the last almost 70 years can forget the line that Curly sings to Judd Fry in Oklahoma, "It's summer and we are running out of ice."

        These thoughts and lines from the shows came back to us as we sat at a funeral of the father of our Branch President in Suhum. The man died in April and the funeral was four months later. Funerals here in Ghana are big, big affairs. The families will wait months if necessary to have the service until it can be done "right". Often this is a great hardship financially for the family but it is so expected. I have been to memorial services for people that passed away a fairly significant time before the service but the deceased was never present. Here they keep the body at the mortuary until the service and then he/she lies in state for the viewing. To me the hardest part would be having to bring up your feelings again after such a time when maybe you were just beginning to put some closer to your grief. But this is their tradition.

        It's hard to find areas that can accommodate large groups of people. Initially the plans were to have it at the lorry (bus) station in town but this was much better. We were in an area near the Anglican Church in Suhum. It was absolutely fascinating to watch everyone file in mostly in the red and black funeral colors.

        The body lies in state for viewing. The family told us that they would stay up all night the night before. I didn't really understand if it was here with the body because everything was already in place here when we arrived at eight in the morning.

         The daughters of the deceased all wore black with the red cloth around their waists. It is tradition to wear similar outfits often in the very same fabric. The deceased left five widows, twenty one children, fifty six grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren.

        Here they are preparing the place for the Chief's arrival.

        They are setting up the umbrella that was in front of the canopy where the chief would be sitting signifying where he is.

          The chief arrives with his court of men and women.

          Because the deceased was a member of the maiz (corn) society they danced their tribute. 

          We were told that the body couldn't be put in the casket before the church service because it was too hot. ("It's summer and we're running out of ice.") So a drape was but around the body for the service.

        These young people danced as the grandchildren in mourning, chewing their fingers to represent their grief and asking where granddad was?
 Professional pall bearers are hired to dance the casket, now containing the deceased to his reward. ("Walk him up, walk him up the stairs.")

        Sorry that my video wouldn't download.

  Farewell. What an experience.


  1. Wow, what a great insight to another culture. Thank you for sharing such a somber moment. Sending peace and love to that family.

  2. Wow, that's an awsome experience. I can imagine how hot it was in those clothes. I didn't know they had cheifs. Who are they cheifs over?

  3. Very interesting! You are having amazing experiences and it is so fun to read about them. Senior missions are great!!