Determined to have the crowds available to bid their dead loved ones the final farewell, many families are now resorting to technology to create the virtual gathering as they opt for private burials as recommended, with the ban on all social and public gatherings still in force.
The ban has been in place since March 15, as part of measures to curb the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
To make up for the absence of the physical presence of friends and sympathisers, many people are now opting for private burials and some are adopting technology, mainly through Zoom, to enable those who are physically absent at the gathering but emotionally connected, to be part.
The directive on private burials with not more than 25 people as allowed, were ignored by many who rather kept their dead relatives at the morgues, hoping to have an opportunity to have the usual elaborate burial and funeral rites. However, people seem to have a change of mind after the ban was extended to the end of May when President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo gave his ninth address on the COVID-19 situation.
The reluctance by family members to hold private burials created congestion at many of the mortuaries, a situation that led to President Akufo-Addo encouraging people to hold private burials to ease the situation.
The Moderator of the Presbyterian Church of Ghana also sent notices around all congregations, encouraging members to hold private burials and plan for the funerals at a later date when the ban is lifted.
Several mortuaries and funeral homes across the country confirmed to the Daily Graphic that many families were conveying the bodies of their relatives, and the numbers had gone up in May.
At some of the mortuaries and funeral homes the Daily Graphic visited last Thursday, it observed that a number of family members had come to make final arrangements to claim their deceased for burial or cremation that weekend.
Also, many family members are placing funeral advertisement in the newspapers announcing the death of their loved ones and indicating that private burials were being held with funeral rites to be held later.
Similar notices are also being advertised on social media.
Many families had bought into the idea of using Zoom, a technology to reach out to several people at the same time live through the Internet.
Per this channel, a family member
had created the platform and shared the link and once people connected to the link, they were able to observe or participate in the service.
At a private burial service that the Daily Graphic observed, three adult children of the deceased who were abroad and other family members were able to connect to the service.
The service itself had exactly 25 people, including a priest, the widow, one of the children, five members of the choir, a pianist, some members of the extended family, some close friends and a media team made up of a cameraman and videographer.
The service was held within an hour and the children abroad read their tribute. After the service, the group was reshuffled to make room for the six pallbearers who bore the coffin with the remains to the hearse and then to the cemetery for burial.
Speaking to the General Manager of Lashibi Funeral Home and Crematorium, Mr Godfried Otu, he said although private burials were rare in Ghana, many families had been compelled to do the unusual to help save the situation, reports Joshua Bediako.
Mr Otu said many families were making bookings and reservations to claim the bodies of their deceased for either burial or cremation.
He said although the facility was bulky and could hold a large number of bodies, the consistent retrieval of bodies had helped create more space for other families who wanted to preserve their deceased in the morgue.
The Head of Public Affairs at the Police Hospital, Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) Mr Yaw Nketia-Yeboah, also said 27 bodies had been conveyed from the hospital’s morgue by families in April, while 20 of them had been booked to be taken by this weekend.
Korle Bu morgue
At the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital Morgue, Emmanuel Bonney reports that the manager of the facility, Mr George Denkyi, said families of deceased persons had been visiting the place to claim bodies for private burials, a great improvement from what had pertained last March and April.
According to him, about 80 bodies were claimed a week after the President’s appeal to families to undertake private burials with not more than 25 people due to the ban on public gatherings.
“At one point, we had about 100 caskets on our premises and social distancing even became a problem. We had to call for extra security from the main Korle Bu Teaching Hospital to ensure law and order,” Mr Denkyi told the Daily Graphic.
He said in view of the rate at which people were collecting their bodies, congestion at the morgue had eased.
“There is no congestion at the morgue now as people come to pick the bodies of their deceased relatives for private burials”, he said.
Samuel Duodu reports from Tamale that while the Muslims, in line with their religious practice buried their dead loved ones within 24 hours, some Christians had begun holding private burials.
Patricia Akligo, who lost his uncle recently, said the family was able to hold a private burial for her late uncle with ease as compared to the past when the body had to be kept in the morgue till funds were raised for the funerals of her departed family members.
However, Adam Tofiq, who lost a brother, said he was against the private burial because he did not get the usual huge crowd to mourn with them.
From Ho, Mary Anane-Amponsah reports that initially, people were reluctant to go by the directive but many families were now complying as the usual huge gatherings in Ho with their accompanied road blocks to create room for large numbers of mourners have taken a drastic downturn and are being replaced with more solemn ceremonies and fewer people.
Most bereaved families in the Hohoe municipality have devised thoughtful ways of ensuring that all families and friends took part in burial ceremonies by attending the event in batches; 25 at a time.
However, a member of a bereaved family and a resident of Ho, Daniel Torku, who reluctantly joined in a private burial, was rather displeased by the directive which, he said, was culturally demoralising, and expressed fear that this may further dent the social cultural way of life for Ghanaians.
From Kumasi, Kwadwo Baffoe Donkor reports that some families are still grappling with the idea as not many of them are buying into it.
The Medical Director of the Living Waters Hospital at Ejisu-Krapa, which operates a private mortuary, Dr Gabriel Sakyi Kwofie, told the Daily Graphic that before the ban on social distancing, on the average, 15 bodies were claimed every weekend for burial.
However, he said since the ban was imposed, the maximum had been three bodies per week, “our facility is full, people are not opting for the private burials.”
He said the idea is still new to lots of people and many of those who came to claim their bodies did so mainly for financial reasons.
Sharing his experience, Mr Richard Amponsah Dwomoh, who recently lost his father, said the family decided to have a private burial for their father because the man was old and they did not want to keep the body at the mortuary for a long time.
He said the family would, however, hold the final funeral rites at a later date to give the late Opanin Dwomoh a befitting burial.
For Baffuor Antwi, inasmuch as the private burials, as was suggested by the President would help a lot of families to cut down on cost, “it does not sit with our traditional practices.”
The series of educational campaigns and measures put in place by some municipal and district assemblies, as well as community members on the need for residents of the Upper East Region to embrace the idea of organising private burials, is yielding results, reports Vincent Amenuveve from Bolgatanga.
Although residents of the region believe in paying their last respects to their loved ones by organising big burial ceremonies and funerals, in the past few months, one would have to be told before one got to know that someone had been buried in most of the communities in the region.
From the time the presidential directives banning social gathering were issued that urged bereaved families to ensure private burials for their departed family members, weekends in the Western Region are still without usual burial services and blocking of roads, reports Dotsey Koblah Aklorbortu.
However, many families have postponed burials in the metropolis and other parts of the region as they prefer to have the remains of their beloved in the morgue wait for the lifting of the ban to enable them have what they call a “befitting burial.”
Egya Ekow Nkansah, a resident of Sekondi-Takoradi, who was returning from a visit to the morgue, said as far as there was space to preserve the dead, they would keep the body of their departed until the ban was over.
Shirley Asiedu-Addo reports from Cape Coast that some residents say private funerals remain one of the good outcomes of COVID 19, as it is significantly cutting the cost of funerals.
Mr Thomas Anselm Afful, whose sister was recently buried privately, said it was a solemn, calm and quiet ceremony.
"I think it is the right way to go," he said.