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Feature Article | Mar 27, 2019

A Very Interesting Roll Call

A Very Interesting Roll Call

My mother died at the age of 81 in 1997 and after the burial her mother's sister's daughter, Mary Abeesi, was appointed the customary successor.

I knew her very well, ate several times in her house and when I was MP for Berekum, she was all over as MP's mother. She died on 4th March, 2019, at the age of 83. Burial was set for Saturday, 23rd March, 2019.

Even though my biological mother was a Presbyterian, my pseudo mother was a Jehovah's Witness.

You know, reader, in my days at Achimota School, between 1967 and 1974, we had a huge school Assembly Hall, which had no windows!

The hall was built in such a way that there are ten doors on the Eastern side and ten doors on the Western side. Reader, this is how I conceptualize Almighty God – you can go to Him through Presby Church door, Methodist Church door, Catholic Church door, Jehovah's Witness door . . .

I have attended countless funerals in Berekum as MP and NPP politician and I had no doubt that this was payback time for me – chiefs, people. I even phantasised in buying schnapps to invite His Lordship Mr. Justice Daniel Mensah, the Super Flamboyant Omanhene of Dormaa Traditional Area.

But no – hold on – Captain.

Your mother was a Jehovah's Witness, and we Jehovah's Witness – sorry, when a member dies, no posters, no invitation cards, no announcements – what? No, no, hang on, more anon, no one-week observance, no wake keeping, no funeral rites, no tributes, no brochures . . . oh my God !!!

How can a former MP and a senior lawyer in Accra bury his mother like dumping a dead animal into a hole? I became devastated and a shadow of myself in the run up to 23rd March, 2019.

A total of five cars carrying lawyers and staff from my law office plus extremely very close personal friends left Achimota Shell at exactly 11 pm on Friday, 22nd March, 2019, for Berekum at convoy speed. All of us made a compulsory checkpoint stop over at Nkawkaw circa 1 am to buy bread, tiger nuts and water – then after about 15 minutes, “on board!!!!”

We got to Berekum at daybreak, circa 0600 hrs and after freshening up at home, we all drove to the Kingdom Hall of Jehovah's Witness to attend the burial service.

I remember so well during my days as MP for Berekum every Sunday I used to visit at least two of the over 150 churches in the Berekum town, but never this Kingdom Hall of Jehovah's Witness, located directly behind the Berekum Circuit Court.

I was greeted at the entrance with the first shock:

“Oh Honourable, we don't allow funeral costume in the Kingdom Hall – but for once and for the sake of your bombastic entourage – we were thirty – very well, enter”.

It was my first experience entering a “Kingdom Hall” of Jehovah's Witness – it is a hall, not a chapel – no pulpit, no vestry, no choir space – just a simple hall with a lectern in front – call it an average university lecture hall.

Where is my mother's corpse?

We sat there quietly watching a documentary on Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead, over and over and over again, in the Akan language. After about one hour, the coffin was brought in, then after 30 minutes it was opened for filing past, and then shut again. I looked at the corpse of my mother in the fully covered coffin – we could not see the face, and unlike traditional corpse wearing white, my mother was lying there in her normal average household cloth, very ordinary, as if going to market . . . at exactly 10 am we sang one hymn and then Bible exposition by an elder – not a pastor. It's all over – no benediction, no “Dead march in saul”, no anything. I pleaded with them to allow me as the former MP to say a few words as a tribute to her . . . “sorry, Captain; we cannot bend the rules . . .”

At one point, I turned my eyes t o see if my entourage from Accra were all with me in the Kingdom Hall, and I noticed with shock that most of them had sneaked outside, standing by the cars chatting. Later, one of them, Helena asked me: “Captain, what kind of funeral service is this?”

Pall bearers lifted the coffin without ceremony – straight to the cemetery – oh my God, what an interesting roll call.

By contrast, according to history – never before and never after, the greatest funeral in history was the funeral procession that conveyed the corpse of World Emperor 33-years-old ALEXANDER the Great from Babylon to Egypt for burial. His catafalque guard consisted of 100,000 heavily armed soldiers, and the casket was in a gold carriage driven by 16 horses . . .

Is it all die be die or all burial be burial?

Rest in Peace, my Mother.

From Nkrabeah Effah – Dartey

Nkrabeah Effah-Dartey
Nkrabeah Effah-Dartey, © 2019

This author has authored 27 publications on Modern Ghana.
Author column: NkrabeahEffahDartey

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