Honoring Mercia’s One Year Anniversary


This time last year I was preparing to travel to Ghana for Mercia’s funeral. It is hard to believe she has been gone for a year now. There will be a celebration of her life in Ghana next month but I will not be there. Recently one of my local Ghanaian Friends who has lived here in the U.S. for many years traveled to Ghana to bury her Mom. Here is how she explained the significance of Ghanaian funerals.

“I just got back from Ghana. I’d been gone for a month. I went to bury my mother, Ms. Ruth Stella Akubia who died at the end of October last year at age 82. The first question I get from my American friends is; why is she being buried so late after she died? And my answer is; that is how we do it in Ghana.In

Ghana, we are not in a hurry to bury our dead. And not surprisingly, we are very good at preserving the dead for long periods of time. And what is the genesis of this tradition? I don’t know but for one thing, Ghanaian funerals are huge, elaborate, costly, epic affairs spanning several days. Sort of like a mini-festival; with different many moving parts, with different costumes and attires.

Starting with the family gathering on Thursday, and receiving the body from the morgue on Friday, followed by laying in state and a night vigil, continued by early morning filing past on Saturday, the memorial service, the burial at the cemetery, reception and lunch, back to the funeral grounds to receive guests, donations, dancing, partying and customary presentation by in-laws. 

On Sunday, there’s the thanksgiving service followed by another reception and lunch, another funeral gathering, more partying, dancing and celebrating the departed. With all that and much more going into one funeral, we take our time to plan every single detail of it. It is physically and psychologically exhausting, emotionally and financially draining but by the time it is over, you get a deep satisfying feeling that you have honored your loved one especially if it is your mother!!

One other thing Ghanaians do differently from other cultures is that when somebody dies, it is never about only their small group of “close family and friends”. On the contrary, it concerns everybody and anything that was a part of the deceased’s life; their former and current acquaintances, work colleagues, classmates, friends, church members. It also concerns the same degrees of relationships of their spouse, their children and their children’s spouses. As you can see, the list adds up very quickly.Another thing we also do differently in Ghana is that friends and mourners donate money to the bereaved as a show of sympathy and support. We commiserate by showing up physically and also donating a little money to help with expenses for the funeral. If all this sounds strange or different, well, that is how we do it. I suppose if I wasn’t born in Ghana, I would find it “strange” too:-)

So, that is how we did it for my mother. The hardest part for me was receiving her body from the morgue. Seeing my mother in a body bag WAS HARD. VERY HARD INDEED. The other difficult part was when she was put in the casket and the casket was closed. There was a finality there that I was not prepared for.”

Millicent’s experience is just what it was like for me last year. After the second weekend of church services and guests at the house, one thing was clearly evident; Mercia was loved and respected by many. It is with good reason that we had to hire two women to take her place. Rest in peace my friend.

Blessings, Debi

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