Sunday, August 23, 2009

A light was going out, A Light was shining

The graveside service for my father in law, Kpakpo Mensah, in Accra, Ghana, began with conventional Christian observances.

My wife and her sister Mary Magdalene, and the rest of the gathered family and friends, prayed and grieved, mostly with quiet dignity.

The pastor, the Rev. Samuel Q. Anagli, who has a congregation in the shantytown of Nima, near where the family compound is located, read from scripture.

I was pleased that one of the family members I know best, our wife's cousin Pafio (in the sunglasses), was able to attend. He lives in North Carolina but was in Ghana facilitating a medical mission.

The powerful symbolism of the dust: whence we come.

The unity of the chief motif fabric, which so many mourners had worn for the occasion to show their connection to the dead man and the family.

The powerful symbolism of the dust: to which we return.

My wife Karley and her sister Mary Magdalene, in mourning black with traditional headwraps.

As I watched the symbolic spectacle of the dirt clods falling on the casket, I noticed an ant wandering in the dirt of the graveyard, and thought of the brutal indifference of nature at that tiny level.

The Homegoing ceremony would not end at the graveside, there was plenty more to come, but this was one ending, today; we would leave the body of the man here.

The body of the man belonged to dust from now on.

As an 18-year veteran of the Ghana Army, my father in law was entitled to burial here in Osu Military Cemetery, with the martial observance of Taps blown on a bugle by a soldier.

The Taps melody is a revision for the military bugle call to "Extinguish Lights": Lights Out.

It was modified from an older signal called Tattoo, which told soldiers it was the end of the day - time to stop drinking and return to the barracks.

I find the evolution from Lights Out to the funeral Taps to be beautiful beyond belief, because we were witnessing the extinction of a light; a light was going out at this graveside

And, yet, the soldier prayed up to the light - to The Light.

For the many Christians gathered at the graveside, a light was going out, but A Light was still shining on high, and our father was joining it now.

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