I stare at the plant, the lily, that received the Guinness libations on the night of Grandmother’s wake. So much of tradition is lost when the burial of your loved ones are left in the hands of these newfangled funeral homes.
My sister and I poured libations ceremoniously via Skype. This newfangled way of doing it was not lost on me, but unlike the invasion of Western style funeral homes which sold an aesthetic, Skype had been around forever and was accessible by anyone. My sister and I poured libations ceremoniously via Skype for Grandmother, on the night of what should have been her wake, because that is what would have been done back in the day before the West crept in and put fancy ideas like funeral homes in the Africans’ head. People used the government hospital morgues for storing the bodies of their loved ones, but chosen family members visited the morgue to wash and dress their loved ones, this way all forms of rituals specific to that family and their ethnic group could be performed without judgment of the now officially titled undertakers. Funerals lasted three to four days from the washing and dressing to the Thanksgiving service. With these funeral homes they are so short, they hardly qualify for mourning the dead.
Today, three days away from when this lily received the Guinness, Grandmother’s favorite drink, I smile wistfully at it apologizing; I’m sure Guinness is not a prescribed plant growth stimulus. I smile as I think of Grandmother’s love of Guinness. She took it once a day if she could afford it until the morning she passed, akin to the apple a day logic and except for big major illnesses and necessary surgeries, she steered clear of the men in lab coats.
I smile at the lily again thinking of how my sister and I, westernized as we had become with more years in the U.S. than our birth country, insisted on offering up libations to aid Grandmother on her journey. My sister led the charge and I finished up asking for grace and forgiveness to pave her way going in. She poured the traditional Ghanaian Gin, the kind used to for a woman’s hand in marriage, and I poured Guinness. She poured into the ground as I poured into my unwitting lily plant. We remembered Grandmother in the tongue that we both spoke more fluently than the others, and we asked for her journey to be smooth, and for her to be welcomed. Somehow doing this together, us two, the grandchildren turned children that she raised for fifteen years felt right since we couldn’t physically be there. It seemed fitting to pray for her in the way our ancestors had done for centuries, and in the way that the three Roman Catholic priests who prayed and sprinkled holy water on her and later on her casket, couldn’t. We prayed in words that were not easily translated for our respective partners who stood at our sides, but somehow they too knew that this was necessary over and above the priests and their aspergillums dipped in the aspersoriums. We wiped our tears smiling at each other through the Skype medium with our partners rubbing our backs. No other time had it been more important that technology was on our side than now.
A mighty oak had fallen and we had not been able to be there with her, but thanks to technology we had been able to celebrate her in our own way. She had taught us well. We were living proof of this and I am sure she was pleased looking at us. We knew one of the fiercest ancestors yet had joined their ranks. We were gucci as far as I was concerned. Let those intercessions begin! I hope the weather would change soon so no other plants would fall victim to my libations.