Liberia: Let Have A National Memorial Day For All Our Dead Loved Ones Having Graves Or Not
EACH AND EVERY YEAR, thousands of Liberians observe the second Wednesday in March as Decoration Day, a memorial or tribute to the many who have lost their lives over the years. These Liberians alive, travel across the country to get to the graves of their loved ones in time to pay their homage in the form of decorating their deceased loved ones’ graves.
THE LIBERIAN GOVERNMENT usually issues a proclamation declaring the day a national holiday. In this year’s declaration, which was released on Monday, March 9, by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, President George Weah stressed that it is befitting that a day be set aside to celebrate the memory of those blessed dead, who have lived and died in the interest of the country, thereby keeping ever alive their deeds and invaluable contributions made to society and the State for onward march to progress.
PRESIDENT WEAH, in the Proclamation, called on citizens and foreign residents to remember and cherish the love and affection, the joy and constant caring which existed between family members and friends who once lived so dearly with them before their death.
THE LEGISLATURE, realizing that important events in the history of our nation should be constantly kept in the minds of citizens and youths to inspire them to larger measures of service and patriotism, did, by an Act approved on October 24, 1916, declare the Second Wednesday of March in each year as “Decoration Day” to be observed as a National Holiday.
THE DAY ITSELF owes its history to former African slaves, who had been repatriated from the United States of America and settled in this part of the world. The settlers founded a colony in 1820s and proclaimed its independence in July 1847.
ON THIS DAY OF the year, many turn out to clean and decorate the graves of their deceased relatives.
WE HAVE ALL seen the scenes; heard the wailings; even the fun and fanfares when Decoration Day comes around as it did on Wednesday, March 11. Many visited gravesites of their ancestors, clean them, trim the grass, prune plants and decorate the graves with flowers and wreaths in homage to ancestors, while expressing appreciation and gratitude for all the sacrifices made by past generations. However, others couldn’t go as there are no graves for their loved ones, who have passed.
IT IS A DAY THAT offers Liberians an opportunity to commemorate heroes and heroines who gave their lives for the country’s prosperity. However, the other side of the coin is that the day has become a profit-making day for hoodlums, criminals and vandals who have become accustomed to removing marbles and decorations from graves to sell them to others.
MAJOR GRAVES LIKE the Palm Grove Cemetery and the Paynesville graveyards have become the embodiment of everything that is wrong with Liberia and its respect for the dead.
WEDNESDAY, like past Decoration Days in recent memory, there has not been a fitting memorial for the heroes and heroines of our past because most of their graves have been dug up, vandalized or become toilet holes for vagabonds who have made the graveyards their homes and hideouts.
LIBERIA CAN and must do better by respecting those who have left our shores. They and all those who are no longer with us deserve a memorial befitting of their service to their country.
WHILE SOME OF OUR dead, past heroes and heroines have graves that have been bust opened, there are hundreds of others of our compatriots, who don’t have graves to be decorated by their loved ones.
DURING THE DEADLY 2014 EBOLA outbreak in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone, a total of 28,616 cases were reported. Of this number at least 11,310 deaths were reported in the three West African countries. There were an additional 36 cases and 15 deaths that occurred when the outbreak spread outside of these three countries.
EVEN THOUGH LIBERIA became the first of the three worst-hit nations to be declared Ebola-transmission free in May of 2015, nearly 5000 deaths, the highest in the EVD’s history, had already occurred in Liberia.
NEARLY ALL OF THOSE who died as a result of the EVD, were cremated, their ashes and bones collected and placed in several huge polythene drums, which were kept in one hut at the Disco Hill National Grave Yard.
IN ADDITION TO THE EBOLA DEADS, over 250,000 Liberians and other nationals lost their lives during the senseless and brutal civil war. It’s safe to say that more than half of the dead were not buried; so no graves to decorate. So, no way to be remembered, too?
WE THINK THAT IT is prudent that we rather have a NATIONAL MEMORIAL DAY to collectively remember all of our compatriots, who have died and those of us to pass to the Great Beyond.