What Remains

I have been listening to a CD of Akan Praise songs for about 2 months now. My mother gave it to me the day my aunt died. For the days leading up to the funeral it was all I listened to, and on the first day of the three-day funeral, I walked around imagining these songs blaring out of the speakers I was sure they had errected under the tents in my aunt’s front yard. I imagined people milling about in various stages of mourning. Some cracking jokes about my aunt’s wit or sharp tongue; others, her no-nonsense attitude. My aunt had sass like no other. I also imagined that some were too wracked with grief to partake in any of these jests. I bet, none of them fully comprehending the fact that they would be seeing her for the final time in a state they had never experienced her before.

I think I continue to listen to the CD two months later because it gives me a certain confort that often regular Gospel doesn’t give me. There is something calming to be sung to in one’s native tongue. A calm that seems to suggest that all will get better, this too shall pass…even if just for the minutes that the track is playing. It has gotten so that I know most of the words to almost all the tracks. As I have listened to it over this time I have pondered some of the repeated words, key among these, the words Nyame, Nyankopon, Okatakyie; all referring to God, the Higher Power. I’ve wondered how the words still remain a source of comfort when you are no longer sure which God you believe in or if you believe in a Higher Power at all.

Over the past 6 years since completing seminary I’ve noticed that my relationship with the Higher Power has morphed into something quite nebulous, at times even non-existent. At these times I have felt phoney saying “3y3 Nyame adom (“it’s by God’s grace”) which is one of the common phrases dripping off the tongue of just about every Ghanaian, sometimes regardless of faith tradition. I have felt phoney because I don’t think I live in the space where I think of God’s grace as the reason for my existence or for that matter, some goodwill in my life. Yet the words, like the “Angel of God” prayer, continue to roll off my tongue and I continue to reach for these Akan praise words for comfort.

As I am surrounded by my language less and less the longer I stay in the U.S., keeping my radio dial on this CD is all I can do to stay comforted that there is some method to this madness called life. I sometimes reach for those things that once shaped my very life way back when I was a devout Roman Catholic and then charismatic and then C/krife (born-again). Somehow when things go awry what comes to the rescue are those things that seem so far away from who I am at the present moment.

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