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If you have a tribute for me tell me today not at my funeral

BY: Kobina Ansah

As an editor, I come across a lot of manuscripts in the line of my duty. I edit novels, books, speeches, profiles, among others.

Working on a tribute touches my heart. It brings a lot of tears to my eyes. This is not because it is being written to the dead. It is because the one in the coffin may never have tasted all the good things that have been written about them in that tribute!

Any time I read a tribute, I ask myself, “Did the deceased know that this was how this person felt about them? Did the living ever communicate their admiration to the dead?”

A tribute is no tribute if it brings tears to the eyes of people it was not meant for. A tribute is supposed to be for the one in the coffin but when it is read at the wrong time, it reaches the wrong people. If you have never expressed your gratitude to someone when they had life, you have no business doing the same when they are no more. After all, they can’t even hear it!  Tributes extol the dead. It is through tributes that you notice how much people admired the dead but never told them. When you read a tribute, the world is painted as a perfect place ─ no jealousy or envy. Indeed, tributes teach us how we are supposed to ideally live with each other. 

I have always wondered why people wait to read tributes at places where the one it is being read to cannot even appreciate it. Unless we don’t mean what we say, why should we hide all the qualities we admire about people from them when they have life… only to tell their corpses?

While people have life, we must appreciate their gifts. We must intentionally celebrate the little things they do that make life convenient for others. The right time to adore people is when they have breath and not when they are about to be buried in the ground.

Tributes should be read to the living and not those who are leaving. Appreciate people while they live if you want them to appreciate it. Tributes mean everything to the living yet nothing to the dead. Tell people now what you are waiting to say about them when they are no more. 

Tributes should be read at graduation ceremonies, church services, birthday parties, social gatherings and in everyday life. They should be about the living, not dead. If we celebrated the living as much as the dead, this world would have been a better place. If we spent more time spending more money to celebrate how impactful people have been to us, we would have spent less on their funerals. After all, why spend so much on a corpse that can’t appreciate what is being spent on them? 

In this New Year, be intentional about telling people all the great things you would have said in their tribute. At least, it will keep them on the right path. It will give them another reason to live. It will be an opportunity to appreciate their strengths while they work on their weaknesses.

Don’t wait for people’s funerals to tell them how much you admire them. Today is the opportune time to do so. Text them and celebrate their talents. Make them know how much the little sacrifices they make mean to you. They should not necessarily be your spouse. They could be acquaintances. They could be teammates. They could be your children or parents. It could be anybody.

Discarding the thought of writing tributes for the dead makes you place more importance on people while they have life. Their corpses cannot appreciate the good things of life you want to lavish on them. Now that they have life is the right time to give them every worthy gift.

When we pay more attention to the living, we live a life of gratitude. Each day, we are looking at praising their strengths instead of sniffing around for their weaknesses. 

Today, someone may be weeping deep inside when a simple word of admiration may be the reason they would give life another chance. Some people may not have committed suicide if what was written in their tribute was said to them when they had life. If you can say something now, don’t wait to say it when the people who could have benefitted from them would have be no more.

This year, shortlist your loved ones. Write a tribute to each of them and send it to them and observe how they respond to it. That is the genuine emotion tributes are supposed to evoke. Unfortunately, we expect those emotions from the wrong people; the dead.

Tell your loved ones all the beautiful things you would have told them if you were writing a tribute to their memory. Thank God for their lives. Show genuine happiness for their successes and be concerned about their failures. This is what it means to be humane. Humanity simply is looking out for each other and appreciating ourselves while we have the time to. 

If you can’t say it to me while I live, of what essence is it when you say it when I leave? If there is any word of encouragement, this is the time I need it. If it is a pat on the shoulders, give it to me now. Whatever you read at my funeral is for everybody except me. Think about it.

Happy New Year. May we all be prosperous in 2023. Cheers!   

The writer is a playwright and Chief Scribe of Scribe Communications, an Accra-based writing company (www.scribecommltd.com). Order for copies of his animation book, Animuonyam The Bully Stopper, via 0243752793