Barack Obama's grandmother, Madelyn Dunham, died today of cancer. Dunham, 85, largely raised Obama, from the age of 10 on, while his mother worked in Indonesia. She's a huge figure in his book, in his speeches, and in his campaign—the campaign he suspended to visit her just last week. Obama issued a statement with his sister, Maya Soetoro-Ng:
It is with great sadness that we announce that our grandmother, Madelyn Dunham, has died peacefully after a battle with cancer. She 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. She was proud of her grandchildren and great-grandchildren and left this world with the knowledge that her impact on all of us was meaningful and enduring. Our debt to her is beyond measure. Our family wants to thank all of those who sent flowers, cards, well-wishes, and prayers during this difficult time. It brought our grandmother and us great comfort. Our grandmother was a private woman, and we will respect her wish for a small private ceremony to be held at a later date. In lieu of flowers, we ask that you make a donation to any worthy organization in search of a cure for cancer.
Obama's grandmother was clearly dear to him, and it's incredibly tragic that she won't live to see him in the White House (should, you know, he win tomorrow). As Obama said to ABC last month:
She's really been one of the cornerstones of, of my life. And, and she's a remarkable woman. And the, the nice thing is, is that ever since people found out that I was leaving the, the campaign trail for a day, she's been, been inundated with, you know, phone calls and e-mails and flowers from total strangers. And so, maybe she is getting a sense of, of long-deserved recognition at, at, towards the end of her life.
And as he said in his acceptance speech for the nomination:
And when I hear a woman talk about the difficulties of starting her own business or making her way in the world, I think about my grandmother, who worked her way up from the secretarial pool to middle management, despite years of being passed over for promotions because she was a woman. She's the one who taught me about hard work. She's the one who put off buying a new car or a new dress for herself so that I could have a better life. She poured everything she had into me. And although she can no longer travel, I know that she's watching tonight and that tonight is her night, as well.
At least she got to hear and see that.