At 4 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 2, members of the Knox and Galesburg community gathered at the Central Congregational Church to celebrate and reflect upon the life of Sekinat “Tundun” Olamitundun Lawani ‘14, affectionately known as Tundun.
Lawani passed away last Sunday, Oct. 28, after being struck at 3:30 a.m. the same day by a vehicle on West Main Street. At the memorial service, friends and acquaintances continued to express grief at her passing but were encouraged through prayers, songs, scripture readings, testimonials and a sermon to remember her kindness, generosity and faith.
Sophomore Angeles Garduno said that after Lawani’s death, “[George Davis Hall] has become nothing more than a huge empty building,” and Post Hall, where Lawani worked at the Grab-and-Go, “has become terrifying.” Garduno hopes to “fill the hole with nothing but good memories” of Lawani.
Junior Amanda Shiew’s acoustic guitar rendition of “Hallelujah,” written by Canadian singer Leonard Cohen, caused a few people sitting in the pews to break out in sobs.
“The reason I’m singing,” Shiew said, “is because I don’t know what to say. She’d [Lawani] just always smile at me … it was nice to be acknowledged that way.”
Senior Dzifa Penty, a member of Harambee Club where Lawani was president, regretted not having spent more time with Lawani.
“I wish I had a better way of saying goodbye,” Penty said.
Lawani, she said, taught her “to be confident and strong. She wanted us to be happy all the time regardless of how bad our days were. If Tundun were here, she would tell us to be strong.”
Penty, along with junior Dan Johnson, was asked to read letters from Lawani’s family members. Penty read a letter from Lawani’s mother, while Johnson read a letter from her brother, Oladipo Lawani ’08, who expressed grief at his younger sister’s death, but also found consolation in God’s love.
“God loves you more than I can ever love you,” he wrote. “I guess sometimes the good die young.”
Some of Lawani’s Delta Delta Delta Sisters were also in attendance. One of them, sophomore Portia Calhoun, talked about how Lawani was “always late” but “always there.” No sister, she said, “was frowning when Tundun was around. We will miss her beautiful, kind heart … her smile, her laugh and her athleticism.”
Midway through the service, the Umoja Gospel Choir, led by Associate Professor of Spanish Jessie Dixon, performed two songs in honor of Lawani, a former choir member. The first, “Total Praise,” was inspired, Dixon said, by Psalm 121, which is about looking to God for help. The second song, “Awesome,” speaks of God’s ability to heal during difficult times.
To close the service, Rev. Lee Johnson, senior pastor of Bethel Baptist Church, delivered a sermon on the meaning of faith.
Lawani, he said, “was a woman of faith” because she “put herself in the hands of Christ … the only one who has come back from the dead.”
Seniors Elicia Bibbs and Dominique Potts, friends of Lawani, said that service helped them achieve a sense of closure.
“Personal accounts,” Bibbs said, “just made me remember [Lawani] more.”
Potts, meanwhile, said that the service “gave us time to get together and to listen and celebrate her life.”
Rev. James Ecklund, the pastor of Central Congregational Church, told The Knox Student prior to the service that it is important to remember God’s love in light of the tragic manner by which Lawani lost her life.
“The bottom line,” he said, “is the good news of God’s love to everyone. Some people blame God, but God’s love is with us in life and in death.”