Saturday, January 03, 2009

Obama's Grandma Toot's Memorial Service

President-elect Barack Obama and his family held the memorial for his grandmother, Madelyn Payne Dunham, in the First Unitarian Church of Honolulu. Their minister, the Rev. Mike Young, wrote this for the newsletter of the Pacific Central District, of which the Honolulu church is a member. I thought you might be interested.

Many years ago Madelyn Dunham brought a small boy to the First Unitarian
Church for Sunday School. On December 23rd, he came back to celebrate her
memorial service. She had died two days before he was elected President of
the United States.

This time he came with his family, his sister's family and a few close
friends; and a huge contingent of Secret Service Agents, bomb sniffing dogs,
and snipers. The whole property was locked down. Every nook and cranny of
the church was searched. The event was successfully kept a secret for two
weeks ahead of time to protect the privacy of the family.

The service was a simple one, with music by Dion Hangtree. Barack and his
sister, Maya, spoke warmly remembering their grandmother, "Toot," (The
Hawaiian word for grandmother is Tutu.) She had been a local bank executive.
The president mentioned that she was the sort of bright, strong woman who,
if she had been born 20 years later, would have been president of the bank.
Her ashes were later scattered in the ocean off Lanai Point, South Oahu.
This is from the opening I wrote for the service:

Madelyn Dunham chose this land of gentle and violent beauty for her final
resting place. We stand now in the leeward shadow of the majestic Ko'olaus,
in the distance the rich and fecund Pacific. Along this coast, Punchbowl,
Diamond Head, Koko, Hanauma, craters of the ancient birthing of this land in
fire. Wrapped in moist trade winds scented and spiced with pikaki and
ginger. Mauka, the verdant mist washed valleys watering a fertile garden of
the human spirit. From the most ancient Kanaka Maoli to today's rich
diversity of peoples whose spirits are rooted in this land, here have you
come. Here will her ashes and the good wishes of those who loved her be
joined with the elements of this place. We come here today to seek the
blessings of this land upon her repose. Once, she admired this beauty as she
moved through its spaces. Now she will be a part of it; greeting the dawn
and the sunset, storm and calm, from within the very heart of that beauty.

I was honored to have shared this moment with the family of President-elect
Barack Obama.

1 comment:

Mile High Pixie said...

That is beautiful and simple, as any good memorial homily should be.