Until I lost a child, I thought my tear-ducts had a bit of concrete sprayed on them. Tears had difficulty flowing down, probably in observance of the Twi saying, “barima nsu” (a man does not cry) tradition.
However, on Friday, June 25, 2021, which would have been Nana Osei’s 40th birthday, the sluice gates to my tear-ducts broke, with tears flowing freely as Osofo preached at the funeral of Brig. Gen. Nii Armah Tagoe (Retd) at the Garrison Methodist-Presbyterian Church, Burma Camp.
Apart from my face mask playing its mandatory COVID-19 assigned role, it also played an effective secondary role of soaking and masking the free-flowing tears from any prying eyes.
Tributes by the widow, children, family and friends, school mates, sports mates and the Ghana Armed Forces (GAF) all spoke glowingly about the good nature of our departed colleague, in spite of his love for arguments.
All was fine until the sermon started. So, what changed?
It was when Osofo, the Chaplain-General, as we called the office until modernity changed it to what a retired Chaplain-General describes as a less glamourous title, Director, Religious Affairs of GAF, started preaching that I began experiencing an earth-tremor around my eyes, causing cracks in the concrete overlay of my tear-ducts.
Osofo recounted his earliest personal meeting with the deceased over a decade ago when he became the first chaplain to do the Senior Division Course at the Ghana Armed Forces Command and Staff College. In his unsettled and apprehensive state like a Form One boy’s first few weeks in a boys secondary school in the 1960s, Osofo said it was then Colonel Tagoe who called him to his office and gave him succour, allaying his fears about the course.
Preaching at the funeral of his mentor was, therefore, difficult for him. Like Jesus, he wished he could ask his Heavenly Father if “this cup could pass him by!”
It was at this point that Osofo ambushed me!
Unexpectedly, he mentioned me as one of the two Generals in the Command and Staff College who came to his assistance in his time of need as a student. As if that was not bad enough, after preaching the sermon, he moved straight from the pulpit to me.
He then told me: “Sir, please don’t die anytime soon, because I cannot simply preach at your funeral! Today I want to tell you that you are so dear to me for the role you have played in my career and others. I want you to know this! We admire and love you! May God continue to bless you!”
At this stage, as if on cue, the cracked concrete around my eyes fully gave way, with tears flowing uncontrollably like a broken dam. It felt like my tribute was being read while still alive.
In a culture which finds criticism easier than praise, Osofo’s words gave me an uppercut to my left jaw! While tears could not have flowed in a boxing ring, they flowed freely in God’s house.
In his sermon, Osofo stated that life is never smooth throughout. Relating this to the General, he said challenges were part of the human condition and would always show up, sometimes very unexpectedly.
However, Brig. Gen. Tagoe showed tremendous resilience in always bouncing back when things went bad, because of his faith in God. He, therefore, exhorted the congregation never to give up/waver when things went awry, but always trust in God.
He buttressed his point by making us sing Methodist Hymn 511 whose last line of Verse 1 reads “with Christ in the vessel, I smile at the storm.”
COVID-19 protocol/Delta variant
Observing strict covid-19 protocol, everybody at the church wore face masks, with social/physical distance well observed. Veronica buckets of water and hand sanitisers were positioned at vantage points.
Only 15 family members and 10 from the Military High Command/clergy totalling 25 went to the Burma Camp Military Cemetery for the burial of Brig. Gen. Nii Armah Tagoe!
Snack packs were made available outside for picking as one left the church, in lieu of a reception.
With the arrival in Ghana of the virulent Delta-strain, formerly called the Indian-variant as reported at the KIA in the third week of June 2021, we need no angel to tell Ghanaians to be very careful in light of the devastation in India by the strain.
Nii-Armah, rest in peace! Tell Nana Osei the vacuum he left in 2008 remains, 13 years on, and that we love him! To Osofo, may your wishes for long life come true!
Leadership, lead! Fellow Ghanaians, wake up!
The writer is Former CEO, African Peace Support Trainers Association, Nairobi, Kenya & Council Chairman, Family Health University College, Accra