Two nights ago one of my childhood friends died in his sleep. He was 27. His sister, the oldest of 5 kids, was my best friend and he and my brother used to play together. We were an odd bunch in those days – one of the first ‘hybrid Ghanaians’ living in Ghana. Our common bond was that we each shared one African-American and Ghanaian parents. We’d sit around and reminisce over our juvenile memories of America while squabbling over the last piece of smoked fish for our abolo. Our friendships were tempered through countless sleepovers, Easter egg hunts, pretending we were blood cousins and “break ups” where we declared that we were no longer friends anymore, only to make up a week later.
Although I can’t confess to seeing or talking to him in over 17 years, Senyo was like a little brother to me. He was an awkward kid, and had such a quiet soul. He never bothered anyone, and was just about the business of living…you know what I mean? It’s hard to imagine that he is actually gone. He died as he had lived: pretty much alone, and quietly. His mother- my ‘aunt’- found him the next morning.
Those who know me and my family personally know that we don’t handle emotion well at all. Oh we’re very good at ‘anger’ and ‘outrage’ – even hatred… but the intensity of grief is not something we’ve managed to master as yet. My brother has not spoken to either my sister or I since we all got wind of the tragedy. Our guess is that he’s holed up alone somewhere, doing whatever he needs to do to get by. Seclusion is generally our coping mechanism, until we’re ready to emerge from the cocoon of grief in the most peculiar way: We make jokes.
For example when my grandmother died, she wanted everyone to wear white and shed no tears on the day she was to be buried. That’s not popular in Ghana. It’s not popular period…but there you have it.
After my sister and I had snotted and cried on the phone together last night, she called me today to do a follow up call.
“How are you doing?” I asked.
“Me? I’m ok,” she replied. “I realized something last night after I got off the phone with you.”
“I’m an emotional giver. I wanted to pay for the whole funeral if I could, but then I realized that I don’t even know Senyo anymore.”
“Yeah, that’s true,” I mulled. “I was thinking the same thing. I mean, I haven’t seen him since he was 10, I think.”
“Exactly! He was our childhood friend and Facebook friend, but I don’t know Senyo the adult. He could have been a douche for all I know.”
“I highly doubt it…but ok!” I paused for a moment. “We’re such horrible people (Marshall nodded at this point). This is a tragedy, and we’re not taking is seriously!”
“Can you imagine how it will be when you die?” laughed Adj.
“Yeah,” I snickered. “Maybe Sami will come up to my coffin at the wake and ask you in front of everyone if you remember the time you had to look into my vagina and fish out the tampon I thought was stuck in there.” (This is a true story, for another day.) We cackled wildly at the thought of our bereaved friends listening to the narration of this tale, and others just as disturbing and inappropriate.
“I don’t want a funeral,” Adj declared. “I just want them to throw me in a box and then have a party.”
“Party hard, eh?”
“Yes!” she exclaimed. “In fact, I want that to be the theme song for my funeral: We Gonna Party Hard!”
As we chortled on the phone, Marshall looked in us in disbelief. I reassured him that we would never do anything of this sort at his funeral. My jesting stopped once the words were out of my mouth.
That’s really the point, isn’t it? One day my husband will die. One day I will die. We’re all going to die one day, and that day is hardly ever of our choosing. I would never choose for Senyo to die at 27, just I would never choose for my grandmother to die at 83. There is so much more life to live and see. If I could, I would keep my loved ones with me for all eternity. But this life is not our eternal life, is it? I know this in my head, but it does nothing to dull the pain of loss.
So rest in perfect peace, Senyo, till we meet again.