Funeral celebrations begin with funeral announcement on both the air-waves and the print media, followed by posters bearing the portrait of the dead with an inscription which commensurate with the age and the circumstances surrounding the dead.
For instance, those who lived up to 60 years and beyond have an inscription like, ‘Celebration of life’ or ‘Called to Glory’; while those in the prime of life, that is, 40 years and above as ‘Gone too soon’ and those who ̒have just opened a page in life, that is, between 20 and 30 years as ‘What a shock!’
Truly some of the portraits are so beautiful and charming that you can even ask yourself ‘Are all these persons really dead?’ Hmmm! All these bespeak the sorrow death brings to the bereaved family and the community at large.
Doubtlessly, some might have died through some mysterious and unforeseen circumstances such as motor accidents, cardiovascular diseases etc.
This shows that nobody knows his end else he would have prepared adequately for his burial. The holy scriptures appropriately say: ‘For a man knoweth not his own end, but like the fishes we are taken by the hook…’-Ecclesiastes 9:12. However, it is a total digression from reality to assume that death is inevitable and therefore one should not worry or grieve when it occurs.
In fact, mere words cannot describe the overwhelming feeling of a shock, disbelief, sadness and despair that come as a result of losing a loved one. Death is painful. I was of age when my mother died at age 93, in 1998, yet I wept bitterly like a class one schoolboy who has lost a coin, especially when it came to the time for her name to be deleted from the attendance register of Oyoko Methodist Church. It was not easy at all. The truth is that the death of a beloved one can put you in a state of melancholy such that you may behave somehow at variance with the norms and that is where maturity comes in.
Some may even lie on the ground weeping and rolling over and over as if they are possessed, all in the name of mourning the dead. Indeed, death is wicked and it becomes even so dreadful when the deceased had such exuberance, promise and potential to affect positively the lives of so many.
Such is the case of those who have lost their lives through motor accidents on our roads. The eight mourners who died in a gory motor accident on Saturday, July 23, 2016 and 23 others injured at Akyem Achiase near Akyem Oda in the Eastern Region is no exception.
The Daily Graphic reported that they were among the mourners who were on their way to the cemetery to bury a dead employee of Zoomlion, Forson Adu, when the accident occurred. We were told that, the driver of a tipper truck with registration number AS 5907 Y lost control of the vehicle due to brake failure and ran into a Hyundai Grace bus with registration number GX 3878-13, which was conveying some of the mourners to the cemetery. The resultant impact caused the bus to move forward and hit a taxi cab with registration number GC6682-12, which was carrying the corpse, and all the three vehicles ran over the mourners who were walking along the road, resulting in the death of eight and injury to 23 others. Very sad indeed!
Frankly speaking, it is unacceptable for a person to sustain injury, let alone lose his life during funeral celebration of a friend or relative. To say the least, it is a mark of scriptural naivety, because who knows whether the dead person will be among the righteous or unrighteous ones who will be resurrected in due course by God as captured in Acts 24:15
Indeed, there have been several of such motor accidents on our roads during funeral celebrations and it is time we took bold steps to avert these occurrences. Fittingly, the Bible cautions that: “Do not be excessively wicked, nor be foolish. Why should you die before your time?” —Ecclesiastes 7:17 (NWT). Truly many have acted or behaved foolishly and died prematurely.
Down memory lane
Let’s refresh our memory with some of the nasty incidents which have characterised some funeral celebrations in the country. For brevity I will restrict myself to only few of them.
I. In 2005, 28 members of the E.P Church perished in a fatal motor accident when they were travelling to the funeral celebration of a dead member. It was reported that the 33-seater Benz bus on which they were travelling burst one of its rear tyres causing the vehicle to somersault and land in a valley, killing so many and injuring the rest.
II. Again, in May 2006, as many as 34 Catholic Church members on board a 207 Benz bus were crushed to death by an STC bus in a head-on collision at Akropong junction in the Ashanti Region. The church members were on their way to keep wake for their dead Priest when the incident occurred. It was disclosed that the driver of the 207 Benz bus failed to exercise patience to allow a Tico taxicab ahead of him to branch off the road. He, therefore, swerved to the other lane and collided head-on with the oncoming STC bus. Unfortunately, the STC bus driver and three others also died, very pathetic indeed!
III. In another instance, on Sunday, October 26, 2006 at 4:30p.m. Mr Kwabena Owusu, aged 28 (an employee of Cocoa Processing Company, Tema), with his brother was returning from a funeral celebration of their grandmother at Asamankese, when the vehicle on which they were travelling was involved in a fatal motor accident. We were told that the tipper truck driver who was impatiently overtaking four vehicles in a row collided with their vehicle resulting in the instant death of his brother.
He sustained severe injuries and died two weeks later after battling for survival. All frantic efforts made by the management of Cocoa Processing Company to save his life proved futile.
IV. Quite recently, on March 31, 2012, three policemen and a civilian died on a spot at Nyinakrom, near Agogo in the Ashanti Region, when the vehicle on which they were travelling was involved in an accident. The Daily Guide newspaper reported that they were on their way to bury their dead colleague, L/Copl. Ernest Asamoah who was killed by an armed robber near Kasoa.
We have invariably put more premium on funeral celebrations so much such that it is considered a taboo for one to be absent. I cannot fathom why we do all within our means to attend funeral celebration even at the expense of our health.
The Muslim community is the trailblazer when it comes to simple funeral rites. I doff my hat for the Muslim community as far as modernisation of funeral celebrations is concerned.
From my observation, I have never seen or heard of a motor accident in the Muslim community during a funeral celebration. Never! They consider death as a journey which we all as individuals will embark upon when it occurs. Therefore, they do not adore or waste much time on the dead.
A Muslim friend died in the early hours of Thursday, May 14, 2015 at Community 5, Tema, and by 2:30p.m. he was in the grave. Those of us who were deeply shocked by this sad news could not even reach there to bid him farewell. The Muslims in that community gathered together and buried him according to their tradition.
I conclude on the note that, Job viewed the time of waiting in the sleep of death as a compulsory service, an enforced period of waiting for release which was a certainty. (Job 14:14-15) We should therefore consider death as a mere period of waiting in the grave and stop the euphoria associated with it because there is “a time for birth and a time to die”……Ecclesiastes 3:2
All said, it is time we demystified funeral celebration and their associates activities to reduce motor accidents.
P. G. OFORI – ANSONG