Posted November 18, 2009 in MH Ho, Ghana:
Dance, Song, and Drum

by Andorra Howard.

Her body was old, but it was not heavy. She moved lightly and gracefully around the coffin of her son who had died suddenly. Grief filled her to the brim, but she didn’t let it weigh her down. She lifted it up high and gave it to the Creator of all.

She held white hankies that she waved gently over the body of her son, encouraging him, waving him on into eternity. She was lifting him up too, returning him to the One who had given him to her.

In Ghana, death and grief are expressed through the body, the song, the drum, and the earth. Grief, praise, joy, sorrow—all are danced and sung and drummed. But the beat is not just in the music; it’s in the land as well. Our song rises from the earth, mingles in the air, surrounds us.

That is why the sweet shuffle of feet upon the ground is part of the dance. Our praise, our grief, our joy, whatever it is, reaches down to the earth.

It beats out a rhythm, and the earth beats back an answer, a response, a union. The beat, the rhythm, the song are all one from creature to Creator, dust to Maker, man to God. Earth and song and body are one.

Some say that the closing of our house, our leaving Ghana, is like a death, but we see something more. It is a dying, not a death. It is a giving, a falling into the earth, and the earth is receiving it, burying it, resting it, waiting until its time is complete for new life to burst forth. Our leaving is a seed, a seed not without pain or tears.

Many times I have seen tears falling on the earth. I will never forget the funeral of the mother of one of our choir members.

The choir went to her family home. There, after the formal ritual greetings, so central to African meetings or gatherings, big or small, we began to sing. The family, friends, and well-wishers sat listening, nodding with the music, clapping or tapping. Some got up to dance.

Then the daughter came out. She was ripped apart, crushed. She couldn’t stop crying, but then there were the song, the beat, the dance. She joined the growing circle and let her tears flow freely. I saw them flow; I saw the steady stream. And I saw the light grow in her eyes and the shy, small smile spread across her face.

I saw her body move and sway and rise above the pall of grief… and I saw hope. I saw the tender shoot sprout. I saw… resurrection.

It still moves me when I see people dancing at funeral Masses. That dancing is about life, about falling to the earth and lifting everything back up to God amidst the pain, the tears, and the grief.

We have shed tears and our friends grieve our leaving, but our leaving Ghana is not only about goodbyes or sorrow or death or leaving.

We carry the song in our hearts. We carry every rich moment of life here back with us. But most of all, we carry our friends forever in the deep recesses of our hearts.

And deep, deep gratitude… for everything—so much so that words cannot express it all. Some day our gratitude will be expressed in a song sung from the depths of our hearts for all to hear.


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