Farewell to Joseph

Hannah, Joseph, and Alison

Hannah, Joseph, and Alison at Sophie’s and my birthday party, October 12, 2007

It’s pretty tragic that it took the death of a friend to breathe new life into this old blog. Well, the death was tragic. The dormancy of the blog is really just lameness on my part. I am not a good diarist. But then, you already knew that.

But this isn’t about me. This is about my friend Joseph Nyabire, who died December 30th, a week and a half ago, at the age of 29. My readers (still can’t believe you guys are out there) will have heard a lot about Jo during my first few days and weeks in Ghana. He was a constant presence, showing me and Kevin around Accra, teaching us the ropes, from how to eat waakye, to buying phones, and negotiating cab fares. I’ll link to posts he was in at the end of this one.

His disappearance from the blog in no way reflected a disappearance from my life. Mostly, I didn’t stay good at blogging regularly for very long. Also, though, Jo stopped turning up in blogs because he stopped being out of the ordinary. I realized how little I discussed him with those overseas when I e-mailed a group of my closest friends the day after he died:

You’ve probably never heard of him unless you were avid readers of my sporadically kept blog, because he was so much of a part of my life in Ghana that he stopped bearing mention pretty early on, sort of like the air, and the ground we walked on together so often. Joseph was always there, loving me fiercely, irritating the hell out of me, introducing me to new foods, and drinking my beer. I can not believe that he is gone.

I’ve actually written a fair amount about Jo since he died, mostly in e-mails to people who knew him, to tell them what happened. Here is some of what I wrote the morning he died:

I am devastated to write and tell you that our friend Joseph Nyabire died a few hours ago at 37 Military Hospital, in Accra. He had been in a coma for about a week as a result of head injuries received from a motorcycle accident. He fought hard to come back to us, but eventually the injury was too much for him…

For those of you who have not been in touch with Joseph in the last few months, I want you to know he was doing really well. He moved into a new place a few months ago, ending his long tenancy with his hostile landlord. He started a good and stable job working for a towing company in August, which was flexible enough to allow him to go to school part time as well. He started school in June, and wrote me one of his inimitable e-mails on his first day: “it  was very  turf  and  challenge  for  me  to  meat  up  with  my expectation  so  i  am  taking  cool  at  the  moment   at  the   same  time  making  an  impact  i  was  very  happy  to  se  myself  in  a clas  room  with  people  is  abaut   100+  but  that  does not  make  me  feel  strange.”

He finished an SSS preparatory course earlier this month, and when I chatted with him last Monday he was still waiting for his exam results; he thought he’d done pretty well. He had registered for a two-year SSS equivalency program to start this year and had signed up for courses that would be suitable prerequisites for eventually pursuing a career in law. Eva tells me he was thinking of volunteering at the Law Resource Centre as well. I was, am, so proud of him.

Despite his long frustrations with Ghanaian politicians, and past protestations that voting made no difference, he cast his vote for the NDC in the election earlier this month. He would be happy to know that it looks like Mills has won yesterday’s runoff.

On the one hand, of course, it is appalling for him to lose his life just as things were finally going right for him, after a particularly challenging year, and the many struggles he’s overcome since childhood; I’m trying to see it as him making an exit when he was on top. Despite my frustration that he continued to ride motorcycles even after a number of serious accidents, I’m trying to remember that Joseph valued freedom above almost everything else, and motorcycles certainly made him feel free. Most of all, I am remembering how much love and laughter he brought into my life, and thinking that, though it was far too short, he sure fit a lot of life into his life.

No matter how much I write and talk about Joseph’s death, I don’t really believe it happened. I can’t really imagine that he won’t be there to greet me with a rib-cracking hug and goofy grin the next time I land in Accra. That isn’t actually possible. So it can’t be true. And yet it is.

His funeral will be at the end of this month. It’s been a tough call to make, but I have decided not to attend. The money I would have spent on a rushed trip to Ghana will honour his memory better if used to help those he loved achieve the things he didn’t have time to. (If you knew Jo and want to know funeral specifics, though, I can give you details, just ask.)

I don’t know that there’s much more to say. Joseph’s death has been a powerful reminder to me to cherish my loved ones while they’re alive, and also a kick in the pants to finish recording my Ghanaian memories while I still have some of them. I will be finishing uploading my photographs onto Flickr (already did a few batches last week), and accompanying them with some stories here. No promises about when exactly, we know I don’t keep those.  But I will do it. And then, who knows. Maybe I’ll actually get into the habit of writing here.

Joseph Links:

A Facebook album I made of Jo-related pictures.

More blog posts with Jo in them: First Day in Accra, Filling in the Blanks, Filling in the Blanks: Day 3, Filling in the Blanks: First Weekend, Rosh HaGhana.

Part 2 of this episode of the CBC’s show the Current is a story produced with Joseph’s help. So good to hear his voice.

And, while there will eventually be a blog post about it, for now, the Flickr set of the one vacation Jo and I took together, to Aburi botanical gardens.

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1 Response to “Farewell to Joseph”


  1. 1 Brennan January 23, 2009 at 6:58 pm

    hey jessie, i two weeks later i still can’t believe this. joseph could be annoying, mysterious and abrasive no doubt, but at the end of the day, he was also what i believe we all look for in a friend: fierely loyal who would be there to help when you needed him. rest in peace joe.

  2. 2 ibrahim amidu May 1, 2011 at 12:57 am

    well what can i say, i know i have a dearest person in life time which i cannot bring back to life i wish it possible that way .if God say yes no one can say no. i completed my the university came out with a first degree still roaming around unemployed because Ghana is now a politicized country such even the qualification and without money , you can a job. you have to go bribe the employers before the issue you appointment letters.
    i really do appreciate your because without you people,my brother funeral would being a disastrous.
    i prayer that good lord grant you peace,love and prosperity in field of endeaoure
    thank you
    god bless
    warmest greeting from ibrahim


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