A new chapter and the end of a beautiful book.

Beautiful flower petals adorned all around us as drumbeats reverberated through the air. A joyful celebration was about to ensue filled with champagne spraying through the hall, cake being cut, and crazy dance moves all around. I had no idea what to expect yet was so excited to be celebrating the wedding of one of my 4-H office coworkers and friends. Philo looked gorgeous with her brilliant white dress flowing down into the traditional Kente pattern of Ghanaian fabric with spectacular reds and yellows adorning her legs. Her ew husband of only a few minutes joyfully proceeded at her side as they worked their way through the shouting friends and family rejoicing at their arrival to the reception hall. On this bright sunny day with friends all around Philo and Eben Kumi began a new chapter in their lives together, continuing a beautiful novel with now two pens together as one heart. I was honored img_2292to be able to speak at their reception and partake in the first lines of their new chapter composed together.  The culture and traditions of Ghana are so rich and beautiful, and learning more about them each day just makes me build an even greater appreciation for the incredible heritage celebrated here as I incorporate them into my own novel each day.

Yet within a mere 48 hours, I sat amongst the whaling and shouting of a community with noises reaching the heavens of biblical proportions as I witnessed the ending of a book penned by a beautiful life. One who’s author’s ink was stolen from his hands just the night before. I sat amongst the weeping and whaling of a community as they mourned the sudden loss of one of their own as he had drowned in the local river while swimming with friends on the national holiday. Well known by all in the community, and a close friend to everyone that I worked with at the moringa farm, this star soccer player, and high school student was no longer able to pen the
novel he had been working on for the last 19 years of his life.  As a community leader took me to view Kennedy’s lifeless cover, now adorned in in clothes with gold stitched embroidery, white gloves, and socks, I couldn’t help but be overcome and join the overwhelming emotional outpouring around me.  As I sat behind the boy’s grieving father his soccer teammates came to the center of the gathering and lined up as the captain called out their numbers. “Numba six, numba six, where is da numba six?! Someone go and find him!” The captain continued to call out for their missing teammate as the entire team broke down when their star player, who just received a scholarship to play in a professional league that weekend, did not report to the line.

While I’ve attended many heart-breaking funerals in the past, none could even compare to the emotions and sorrow I experienced and captured with the pen of my memories etched in the pages of my mind forever. All while the ink of a joyful celebration of my beautiful friend’s wedding was still drying just a few pages behind.

Whether we think about it or not, each of us is engaged in the penmanship of a beautiful work of art. Some pages filled with joy and success, yet others at times seemingly just being copy and pasted day after day, while others still have the stains of tears making the ink bleed across the page as we write them.  Whether we try or not, all of us have many co-authors in our novels as we encounter people every day. Yet you yourself are a co-author to immeasurable other’s stories, ballads, poems, and narratives through our daily lives.

What kind of an author are you? Do you praise the creator who gives you the pages to write on, or just keep flipping them over day by day until you too no longer have ink in your hands? My experience here has written an incredible chapter in my life and I am excited to see the numerous chapters of the Kumi’s future and pray that the remarkable book of Kennedy’s past will not be forgotten.  I hope to pen great memories with many extraordinary friends and challenge you to do the same. As my chapter here in Ghana is beginning to draw to an end, take some time to think about your own novel re-reading the past, yet celebrating what you wish the pages will be filled with in the future. May we all be the authors of good lines in the books of those around us and cherish the pages we have left.

Clayton Carley received bachelor’s degrees in Plant Biotechnology and Agricultural Education from the University of Illinois. Before becoming an AgriCorps Fellow, Clayton served as a state FFA officer and started his own business, “The Sweet Corn Shack.”