I just had an interesting couple of conversations with my Aunt & Uncle in Ghana whose mum just died today. I called to see how they both are, expecting sad or heavy emotions but instead they both answered the phone with their usual cheery banter. Then we laughed and did our usual mickey-taking ‘hello old woman/man’ repartee in Twi, our Ghanaian language. And they weren’t faking or putting on a brave face.
When I asked how they are each, separately, said there fine. But the interesting part was that my Aunt responded saying ‘How can I not be? I have your Grandma here, my family, so I am not alone, we are together and so we are fine’ (paraphrased).
And my ever piss-taking, professional wind-up Uncle echoed that when I later spoke to him, saying ‘Ah but at this age it is only a blessing, what else will happen? So it’s nothing to be sad or surprised about. It is fine.’
Now to western ears this may sound cold or ‘in denial’ but rather I think it reflects the general attitude of ‘joy balanced with pragmatism’ that permeates Ghanaian culture.
They’ll bury their mother tomorrow, within 24hours in line with her religion (not theirs as he’s, I think, either an apathetic theist or agnostic, & my Aunt is Christian). And at her funeral, there’ll be weeping (loudly!) in the Ghanaian style, but there’ll also be dancing. Balancing the sorrow with celebration. And it will be BIG. And no one will be alone.
That’s the Ghanaian way.