Dr. John Kenneth Mensah

Senior Lecturer


Dept: Chemistry
Chemistry Department
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KNUST
Kumasi, Ghana

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Requiem For Mr Francis Martin

Requiem for Mr Francis Martin

Martin’s death reminded me of my own mortality and had me asking lots of unanswered questions: At what age will I die? Will it be peaceful in my sleep or will it be after short or protracted bout with illness?

Funerals provide several teachable moments. At Martin’s funeral, I wondered aloud: will a larger or lesser number of mourners show up for mine? But do I really want a smaller or larger number of mourners? To whom does the number of mourners benefit - the dead or the living?

Martin was a good man who kept me informed of the many ways that one could make an extra income while still teaching: “Doc, operate a Kia truck or a Motor King.” His constant refrain was: “Doc, you could do this; doc you could do that.” All his suggestions were truthful admonitions, sincerely offered with no inhibitions, as later investigations revealed. When I had informed him that I wanted to start a poultry farm, he was uncharacteristically silent. The next day he took me to the outskirts of Ahomaso and there, nestled in the urban sprawl, were several fishponds. The owner of the ponds, he explained, was a former KNUST employee who is obviously doing better economically now. The message was clear.

Martin was also a friend who indulged my eccentricities. When I started wearing suits to lectures, he would simply flash me satisfying looks. He offered an interesting suggestion about a provocative line of classroom fashion that is still in the pipeline: “Doc, come here draped in Kente cloth with your “stool-bearer” ahead of you and your “umbrella-bearer” behind you. You can throw-in a palanquin if you can get it and organize a procession of cheering students that will alternately sing your accolades with chants of your accomplishments as you make your way majestically to the lecture hall.” What a clever way to de-mystify Chieftaincy and its accoutrements and paraphernalia of power. I thought.

The complexity of death, not just Martin’s, and its aftermath got me thinking a great deal. That I have to prepare for death with much more zeal and tenacity as I would for my pension. That in death, my children and my students should enlarge my story to an extent that a mythology will be born; to the extent that I will become larger in death than I was in life. But Martin’s life-story was retold in a decent matter-of-fact manner devoid of all heroic trappings.

Consequently, I have been talking about death much more frequently now. My funeral which constitutes the last significant gathering of lovers, colleagues and family at the same place at the same time with  "me" as its main attraction should be eventful: there should neither be a public show of grief nor tears in the burial and funeral grounds.

Heck, I have even started a macabre composition of an anthem that defies my death with irritating lyrics including:

6 feet at last! The Trotro has it written on its back windshield.

But when my time comes, bury me in 8-feet of dirt.

I’ll claw my way back to hunt you as a vengeful ghost if you don’t

 

Tried out my coffin at the workshop of the profiteers of death

Selected the mauve colored coffin with the most comfortable cushion

Took a picture of the coffin try-out with my camera phone. Pretty it is!

 

When you lay me in state,

Place both hands in my pants pocket

Even in death I want my different personality to show

 

Force a scowl on my dead cold face  

And curl my lips to show withering contempt for the living.

The overwhelming fear of death among the living should be conquered.

 

REST IN PEACE MY GOOD FRIEND MR. FRANCIS MARTIN.

 

You will be fondly remembered by all who had the honor to get close to you.

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