Ghana has given me a new perspective on death. Death here is treated with a sense of fatalistic expectation. They realize that if we see a new day, or another year it is” by the grace of God.” When speaking of future plans they always say “if God wills.” The reality is that death is common and often sudden here. Grief is not much of an option, the way to cope is just to accept and move forward. I continue to appreciate the brevity of life and the manner with which we spend our time. So often we feel ourselves immune to the possibility of death and the
However, this last week was a week of grieving for many of us. We lost a beloved member of our community, Adjoa.
She was the reason. The reason that the compound was kept swept clean, the reason kids retuned to class after breaks on time, the reason that resources were finally being pulled off the dusty shelves and used in classrooms, and she was the reason that I came back to Ghana after December. Madam Adjoa inspired and encouraged the best in everyone. To borrow the overused metaphor, she was the glue that held the students and teachers of Hope Christian Academy together. Her passion and love for the children shone admirably against the dull indifference of so many others.
Madam Adjoa was a 4th grade teacher who was moved into the role of curriculum coordinator this year because of her capability and commitment to positive change at HCA. From the time that school opened until now my relationship with her continued to deepen along with my respect and admiration for her. I spent hours a day working with her and talking with her at the school. I appreciated her honesty , intelligence and love with which she worked. In a culture of secrecy it is often difficult to know what is going on, but she began to open new doors for me to work and to reach new levels of understanding at our school.
When I returned in January I was informed she had not yet returned from the Christmas break due to illness. When I inquired as to the cause I was told it was a breast wound. I was a bit unclear about the whole thing and went with Tommy to visit her. I was completely unprepared for what I encountered. I cannot recall a time that compares to the utter shock and grief that I felt in that room. Before we even entered the home, I could hear groans of pain coming from within. I did not immediately recognize her, in fact I scanned the room and was disappointed not to see her. The two women in the room did not resemble the Adjoa that I knew. The pain had so much transformed her face that I did not recognize her as she sat in front of us with her aged mother.
Adjoa proceeded to tell us the story that had unfolded over the past seven months since she had discovered a lump in her breast. It had led to a “biopsy” which left her with a festering wound that led to a serious infection. I was in tears listening to her labor while trying to speak. It took all my strength to keep from weeping at the pain she was suffering. I left her house crushed at the state in which I found Adjoa and the dim prospects for the future.
Over the course of the last week since we received the news I have taken every opportunity that I can to try and help the children grieve and process our loss. It has been wonderful to hear from the girls who were closest to her the impact that she made on their lives.
I am reminded yet again of the words of James, What is your life? It is a mist that appears for awhile and then vanishes (4:13-14). I am grateful for the life and example of Adjoa and all that I have learned from her and the love that she had for these children. I continue to find in the times of the greatest pain and chaos that God moves beautifully through us.