Da Adzoa
Da Adzoa
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A fond farewell to our Da Adzoa - Elizabeth Ohene writes

This is personal and I crave the indulgence of those who might feel I am abusing a privileged position.

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Every once in a while, someone dies and I am deeply conflicted about writing about the person when I did not do so during his/her lifetime. I happen to believe passionately that what there is to say about somebody should be said while the person is still alive.

That I never wrote about Da Adzoa of Abutia Teti just goes to show how we sometimes ignore the very obvious that is staring us in the face, and go looking for imaginary intangibles far away.

There is, or shall I say, there must be, a Da Adzoa in every village. But let me tell you about ours, the Abutia Teti Da Adzoa, whose death and funeral took me to the village on Saturday.

I called her Adzoa, and not Da Adzoa, since she was younger than me (she died aged 72), but she was generally known and called in the village, “Da Adzoa”.  She was slightly intellectually disabled, nothing to frighten anybody, indeed, once you get over the initial involuntary facial contortions and her persistence when she wants something, she would win you over with her charm. 

Bit

She was a fixture at every gathering in the village and would do her bit during communal labour works. She was at funerals, outdoorings, marriage ceremonies, meetings under the tree; but she was at her memorable best, at church and church activities. She would help sweep and dust in the church.

During church services, she would dance her heart out at the front of the congregation, not always at a rhythmic coordinated pace, but what she lacked in rhythm, she made up with in enthusiasm and commitment.

She was the first to jump up to start dancing and the last to reluctantly resume her seat when the drumming and singing stops. She belonged to many of the singing groups in the church and was said to be meticulous in keeping up with paying her membership dues.

One Sunday about two years ago, she sidled up to me in church and wouldn’t go away with the obligatory 20 cedis. She insisted she had something important to whisper to me. We went outside and she said she wanted me to give her the type of money that would make the Monday-born group, to which she belonged, emerge as winners that day in the Kofi-Ama silver collection! As I recollect it, I think her wish came true that Sunday.

Two Sundays ago, Adzoa (Rebecca Yeboah) missed church. Not many people could recall a Sunday without her being in church. The next day, Monday, she died.

My sister Susie had always cited the total integration of Adzoa in the community as evidence of just how civilised and open-minded we are in Abutia. She was always well dressed, I never saw her in torn or shabby clothes.

She was not hidden away but treated with dignity and accepted openly in the community. She was loved and I think she knew she was loved.

Proud

Then she died and the reaction to her death has blown my mind and made me ever so proud of my people. The first story that emerged with the news of her death was that she was not a native of Abutia.

I couldn’t believe that. I have known her all my life, her home was a shouting distance from my grandmother’s home.  It turned out that the home she had always lived in and the family I had always known her to belong to were not her blood relations at all.

Well, this story of not being a native made no difference. People stood up to be counted and did the needful. Fo Albert took the body to the mortuary in Ho, Fo Seth, who had apparently assumed responsibility for her in the last few months, set about trying to arrange the funeral, but the chief and elders intervened, called a meeting and decided she was their daughter and allocated responsibilities for her funeral, the same way it is done when there is a death in the village. 

Easy

Adzoa had made it easy for everyone by timing her death to occur a few days before the first weekend of the month, which is when funerals are held in the village. Nobody had to grapple with setting a date for the burial and worrying about mortuary fees.

In the meantime, the news of her passing is posted on the Abutia social WhatsApp platform early evening of Tuesday. Within half an hour, the outpouring of condolences and grief had become so intense, someone suggested that maybe those on the platform should make a donation as a group to support the funeral.

Gloria, who is our usual fundraiser, put up her customary appeal and regular Mo-Mo number and I am happy to report that the members outdid themselves. In five days, that is, by Saturday when we were on the funeral grounds, more money had been donated by people on the platform than was collected when we were all levied to pay for the Easter events.

Anecdotes

Anecdotes came. Young people wrote about how helpful Da Adzoa had been to them, some wrote about how she was always running errands, the most touching came from my Fo George who wrote: “What was most endearing about her is the quiet manner in which she defied her condition and concentrated on living a ‘normal’ life, just like everybody else”.

As the donations on the WhatsApp platform continued to pour in, some wondered loudly if we were all simply displaying the Ghanaian love for the dead, with the unasked question hanging in the air being, were people anywhere near this generous to Da Adzoa when she was alive and could do with some money?

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The church did her proud. The Evangelical Presbyterian Church was at its best, with a full panoply of priests, presbyters and catechists. All the groups to which Da Adzoa belonged in the church turned out in their special uniforms, they accompanied her coffin with song and dance along the street to the church where she was laid for people to pay their respects.

And they did, with song and dance. Her coffin was then brought to the grounds where canopies had been erected for the ecumenical joint service for all the other people being buried on Saturday, some of whose funerals had been almost a year in planning.

Tone down

I learnt during the service when Evangelist Amedzro was paying his tribute to Da Adzoa that I should, maybe, tone down on my constant criticism of big and expensive funerals. He quoted from Ecclesiastes 6:3:

“A man might have a hundred children and live to be very old. But if he finds no satisfaction in life and doesn’t even get a decent burial, it would have been better for him to be born dead”. I had no idea the Bible advocated “a decent burial”.

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Our Da Adzoa certainly got more than a decent burial and for the first time in my life, I was appreciative of the staged drama that surrounds dead bodies in this country.

I hadn’t been to church in Abutia the whole of this year and that means I hadn’t given Adzoa any money this year. I was glad to be part of ensuring she wasn’t treated as a charity case in her death.                    

Our Da Adzoa is gone; if yours is still around, please enjoy her while you may. 

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