Monday, November 3, 2008

A death in the family

Barack Obama's grandmother, Madelyn Payne Dunham, the rock of the candidate's life and a wellspring of his personality, character and drive, died today, one day before the election that is likely to make her grandson the President of the United States. Gravely ill with cancer, Dunham, who was 86, had recently suffered a broken hip. Obama, who learned the news this morning, while he was campaigning in Jacksonville, Fla., announced the news from Charlotte, N.C.

In a joint statement with his sister Maya Soetoro-Ng, Obama said Dunham "was the cornerstone of our family, and a woman of extraordinary accomplishment, strength, and humility. She was the person who encouraged and allowed us to take chances."

This passing brings home the mortality that affects us all, no matter what your station in life. As with John McCain's cancer or Joe Biden's aneurysms, Obama's personal tragedy summons the character in the man, even as it aligns the candidate with the nation he'd hope to lead.

Consider how Obama has responded to this, from before today's announcement. Consider the ways in which this is the All-American family crisis, and think of the ways it weds this man to this country and everyone in it.

Then thank your personal God for every minute above ground, and pray that Madelyn Dunham's watching out for Barack, as he prepares to possibly assume the leadership of another, bigger, wider family, even as he loses the leader of his own.

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