Heart wrenching . . . if I had to describe yesterday’s funeral for Denise Dusenberry Ortal-Ballaibe, that’s what I’d say.
I would also call it tragic—Denise died on December 15, 2016 at the age of 54 from ovarian cancer—too young and too soon. She was a long-time member of the Lutheran Church of Honolulu—from 1987 when she first moved to Hawaii and rented an apartment from Diane Fell, a former LCH church member and silkscreen artist who made the Pentecost paraments. (Diane moved to Maui in 1991.)
Person after person got up during the service and spoke about Denise’s zest for life and adventure; her always cheerful disposition and sunny smile. Each reflected on the tremendous loss of a friend, sister, mother, and wife at too young of an age.
She leaves behind her beloved husband of twenty years, Rudy, and their two teenage children, son, Noah, and daughter, Emma. Although it was over twenty years ago, I am pretty sure that I played the organ for their wedding at the Lutheran Church of Honolulu—I remember how pretty she looked in her wedding dress.
Rudy said that the only time Denise was a little perturbed at him was when he brought home a bandsaw weighing 2,000 pounds! Sadly, Rudy used it to fabricate the urn (made from Norfolk pine) to place her ashes.
What I remember about Denise was that she was a Sunday School teacher when my son was little. It was the first Christmas pageant in which he dressed up as Joseph (and Marisa Castello was Mary!) On that year the children’s choir sang for the Christmas Eve service, and guess whose voice was louder than anyone else’s? Yup, it was my son, Stephen, about age five, who intentionally tried to sing above the other children. Unfortunately, we did not capture that moment on video.
Denise told me with a laugh, “Stephen has discovered his voice!” As musicians we were a little embarrassed, but as parents we were secretly pleased.
Scott Fikse led the congregation in several songs, aided by Carol Langner, Olivia Castro and Randy Castello. I thought the choice of Marty Haugen’s “Shepherd me, O God,” was especially appropriate, it being based on Psalm 23.