Romeo Torkornoo reflects on tragic loss of both parents on the same day
On the evening of Monday, February 3, 2014, Romeo Efui Torkornoo, who was 32-years-old, had to drive his mother and father, who had died at different times within the same day to the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital (KBTH) mortuary.
His mother, Mrs Anthonia Eyivi Sossou-Torkornoo, who was 60-years-old, had died on reaching the Holy Trinity Hospital where Mr Torkornoo, a staff at the Graphic Communications Group Limited, had sent her when she had suddenly fallen ill.
He had closed from work when he was called that his mother, whom he had left healthy at home, was ill.
He was about to leave the morgue at about 9 p.m. after depositing her body when he received another call that his father, Charles Aheto Torkornoo, who was 64, had also died at a different location in Accra.
In a chat with The Mirror in Accra on Tuesday, 10 years after the death of his parents, Romeo said, “It has been 10 years and I don’t know how I have been able to live through the years.
My four siblings and I still feel the pain daily. It is only God who has kept us”.
“Their memories come alive anytime we hear a siren, watch a movie with scenes about death or read such stories.
It is as though it all happened yesterday”, he added.
According to Romeo, both parents had attended the wedding of his youngest sister, Charleslene at the St Charles Lwanga Catholic Church, Abeka, in Accra on Saturday, February 1, 2014.
His father left after the wedding but his mother had stayed on for the thanksgiving church service on Sunday, February 2.
He said while his mother was on her way back from Abeka to Kasoa (where she lived with her husband) on Monday, February 3, she had been called that her husband (Romeo’s father) was not feeling well.
Mrs Torkornoo responded that she was on her way back home and that she would come and accompany her husband to the hospital.
Romeo said while on her way back in the taxi, she also started feeling sick after hearing the news, stopped at a pharmacy to get some medication and continued the journey.
He said, unfortunately, things got worse and he (Romeo) was called to send her to the hospital.
When the doctor on duty at the Holy Trinity Hospital told Romeo that his mother had died, he would not believe it so based on the recommendation of the doctor, he drove to the KBTH for what he thought would be advanced treatment.
“I was numb when the doctor at Korle Bu, after examining my mother, advised me to quickly take the shortest route to get to the morgue before that section of the road was closed.
I was young, had never been so close to a corpse so I didn’t know what to do but followed the directions given about which gate to pass,” he added. “Earlier that Monday morning, I had given my mother her usual monthly stipend.
She had jokingly said that I should increase the amount and I had told her I would the next month.
The envelope was still in her bag, sealed and it was from this same money I paid her mortuary fees,” Romeo added.
Romeo’s siblings were not aware that their mother had died and was in the morgue when he had to return from there to pick up his father to the same place.
Romeo Torkornoo and siblings
According to him, the mortician on duty at the time, whose name he only knew as Mr Agbozo, said he had been working for 32 years, had seen couples die a few days apart but never the same day when it was not an accident.
Romeo said the mortician did not allow him to pay the charges for depositing his father.
“After doing the necessary documentation, he just signalled with his hand, that I should leave.
He didn’t even lift his head to look at my face. I guess he didn’t want to be in my shoes at that moment,” he said.
Informing his siblings about the death of their mother was one of the most difficult times he had experienced in life but “surprisingly, they sat still. One of them asked, is it our mother who is dead or our father?”
Romeo said the next demand they made was to visit the morgue that same night to see the body of their mother.
“I had no option but to drive them there.
They just stood staring for a while. It was about 11 p.m. now, and then they asked to be sent back home”.
According to Romeo, planning the funeral was the most confusing and demanding challenge he had experienced at the time because there were four families from different clans and different rituals to be satisfied.
“My mother’s father was from Dahomey in Benin and there was her mother’s family, my father’s father’s family and his mother’s family.
It was not easy.
All of them making different demands. But it was a grandfather who spoke some words of comfort to us the children.
He asked us not to worry because the two who had died in such a manner would decide how they wanted to be buried.
This was exactly what happened,” he said.
The magnitude of the drama, plotting, scheming and more is something Romeo says he would rather not talk about because in some cases, the interest, he finally found out was only motivated by making money out of the situation.
The five–minute walk from the St Francis of Assisi Catholic Church at Anloga in the Volta Region where the burial service was held to the church’s cemetery just behind it, has been the longest walk for Romeo and his siblings.
“Walking behind the two caskets wasn’t easy. I was actually on my way to put my parents in the ground,” he said.
The two were laid to rest, side by side, in one big grave.
Looking back, Romeo recommends psychological care for people who go through such misfortunes.
“Oftentimes, we think they will be fine and we just leave them with words of comfort without the needed support.
But what went on with my siblings and I cannot be described and I believe that we should have seen a psychologist or a psychotherapist”.
Romeo says he had learnt the hard way that human beings are not totally in control of what happens to them and this must be something to keep at the back of their minds.
He remains grateful to friends, some of whom he never knew would be of such immense help, the Saint Charles Lwanga and Francis of Assisi Catholic Church, some family members, Mr Agbozo, the mortician who used his experience gathered over the years to manage him that faithful night at the morgue and the Graphic Communications Group Limited.
To celebrate 10 years of God’s grace, the family will organise an anniversary thanksgiving service on Sunday, March 31,2024 at the St Francis of Assisi Catholic Church, Anloga at 9a.m.
For now, Romeo lives one day at a time, looking up to God and praying that he and his siblings totally recover from the trauma they suffered.
“Driving both parents to the morgue on the same night is something I would never wish for my worst enemy,” he added.