The funeral notice.
Thursday, January 7, 2016, I traveled to Tamale with a good friend and ministry partner, Razak Abdul Iddi. We were going there to attend the funeral of his Auntie, Stella Nitori, who was an amazing woman! I left my house at 3:45 AM to walk to the tro tro station where I was picked up by Yaroo, the driver. Razak joined us a few minutes later. It was a full car! We proceeded to Wa, where we went to the Imperial Station to buy tickets for Tamale. We arrived at our final destination around 1:30 in the afternoon. I was exhausted! After a nap, we went to the family house to greet everyone. I met relatives from near and far who accepted me as one of their own.
Julius and myself in our "proper" funeral wear with bags from the Lawra area.
There was no viewing of the body at the family home. The first "formal" part of the funeral was a mass at the Catholic Church Friday night. So, Friday, we hung out at the family house, greeting people and getting to know one another, waiting for family members to arrive from all over Ghana and points beyond. And remembering... I thought there would be viewing at the church, but, I was mistaken. (This was a Tamale funeral, much different from a funeral in Lawra. So, I was definitely a learner in this situation!)
The funeral mass - notice the lights INSIDE the casket!
Saturday morning was the Mass of the Resurrection. I arrived at the church before 9:00 for the 9:30 Mass. There were plenty of people there already, all standing outside, choir singing, choristers singing, each group Stella was involved in, taking their turn. When the time came, the six priests and the bishop came out to say their prayers and escort the casket inside the church. Crossed swords, from the Knights of St. John, made an arch over the entry way. Then, Mass with lots of singing, both in English and in the local language. Muslim, Traditional believers and Christians all gathered together in church to celebrate the life of this woman! The family gave testimonies about their loved one's life. At the end of it all, the top of the casket was undone and the entire congregation lined up and passed by. (This was the only time the casket was open.) Next, burial on the grounds of the school that Stella started. After the burial, there was plenty of music and dancing, eating and drinking and talking with people.
Musicians at the family house - tradition has it that you dance, or give them some small money.
Sunday, a Mass of Thanksgiving for Stella's life was said. Then, back to the family house for eating, drinking, visiting. Stella's sons then traveled to the village of Savelugu to see the Yoo Naa (the chief.) Since the deceased husband was part of the royal family, the funeral had to be "passed on" to the village and her death formally announced.
Razak dancing at the funeral festivities at the Yoo Naa's palace.
Monday, late afternoon, we all crowded into cars and trucks and hopped onto motorcycles to travel to the village of Savelugu to begin the funeral "festivities." Plastic chairs were set up in the street, making a circle around the space left for dancing. The local musicians came and started playing. They would choose a person and that person had to get up and dance, or give them a small amount of money. As a person danced, money was placed on their foreheads. The money was used to pay the musicians. There is actually a CD of me dancing at the funeral!
The village musicians.
The next morning, Tuesday, we went to the village early. The women made sure I stayed with them and took good care of me. We all filed into one of their rooms and sat around and looked at jewelry that was for sale and just talked "girl talk." It was nice. Then, we went back outside where others were preparing teezert and groundnut soup to pass out to extended family in the community. The men had gathered to say their prayers for the deceased. (The people in the village were mainly Muslim.)
Tradition calls for the family to cook for the much larger extended family in the village.
After the prayers and the food, the funeral rites were finished. Then,we went to see the chief. After a short visit, when we were all leaving, the chief called to me and asked if I wanted a picture with him. I went up to him and he gave me some kola nuts, a sign of peace. We greeted each other, pictures were taken, plenty of pictures and plenty of laughter was had! We left the village early - before noon! After that, it was relax, rest and pack to return to Lawra the next day. These few days in the Tamale area opened my eyes to a whole other Ghanaian culture. And, has given me a new Ghanaian family! I thank God for this opportunity and privilege.