Yesterday, we said goodbye and buried my Dad. Will the shock ever wear off?
That said, I feel that an enormous weight has lifted now that he is laid to rest (it has been almost 2-months since he passed). His Celebration of Life in Accra, Ghana, was a 3-day affair steeped in Ghanaian tradition, and it was an experience that I will never forget, even though I watched from afar. I am incredibly grateful that he received the sendoff that he would have loved and deserved for all his hard-work and dedication to his family.
Not going was one of the most complex decisions I've had to make; weighing the risks, pros, and cons of traveling 24-hours across the world, while 26-weeks pregnant, with a 2-year old. I had to ignore my extreme case of FOMO (which I inherited from my Dad) and make the right decision.
My heart will be forever heavy that Andrew, Adeline, and I couldn't be there in person, but the safety of my pregnancy and the twins had to take precedence.
Ultimately, I know it was the right call. So, we stayed up all night and haven't slept much over the last few days so we could watch from home (there is an 8-hour time difference between Accra and San Jose). Thankfully, my family made sure the ceremony was covered via live stream. When the live stream was interrupted, I could intermittently video-call my siblings (I love modern technology) to fill me in on what I missed. The fact that I can also re-watch the videos to savor the shared stories and memories is also a plus. I have learned over the past that I am one of those people who likes to confront grief head-on through memories and stories. I am not afraid to cry and I am not afraid to talk about death. One of the best things I've heard is that if your children ever see you cry (which I tried not to do in front of Adeline), one option is to tell them that "tears are happy memories that fall from your eyes," and I love this sentiment. I will always try to cherish all the good and bad memories, which is another reason why writing is such an important outlet for me.
So, what does a traditional Ghanaian Funeral look like, you ask?
For my Dad, it meant hundreds of people celebrating his life at a 3-hour church service. It included a military sendoff and burial, followed by a party that would live up to your planning standards. It came complete with drummers, a saxophonist, dancing, a roast pig, and plenty of food and drinks.
It also meant almost 2-months of planning (thank you Aunty Gwenda), a hefty sum of money that would make many brides jealous, and a fair amount of family drama (a side-effect of many funerals, grief and death).
I am still unsure how I will get through this loss, but I know that I will need to lean on my family more than ever to fill the void and I believe that in the end, even with the drama, funerals manage to bring people together.
Again, sad that I couldn't be there and that we had to say our final goodbye, but at peace, we did it your way, in true Dr. Francis Sam style.
Rest in peace, Dad.
If you would like to watch my Dad's Celebration of Life and Ceremony, learn more about him, or donate to his education fund, please check out the links below:
Pioneering OB/GYN Dr. Francis Sam delivered thousands of babies and helped bring free health care to immigrants in need
IN MEMORY OF Dr. Francis Bainyin Sam
FUNERAL OF DR. FRANCIS WOOD WALLACE KWEKU BAINYIN SAM1937 - 2021