Select Wisdom Brand

Eulogies for the Living

Numbers 20:1
And the people of Israel, the whole congregation, came into the wilderness of Zin in the first month, and the people stayed in Kadesh. And Miriam died there and was buried there.

We’ve all been to the graveside of a friend or loved one who we didn’t really got along with in life and discovered how death brings out both the best in them and the best in us, right? In them, because we remember those redeeming qualities and memories we tended to overlook; and in us, because we finally give the gratitude and grace we found so difficult to extend.

We haven’t exactly seen the best of Miriam in these final chapters of her journey, but reading of her death in Numbers 20:1 immediately fills me with a sense of gratitude for the heroism she displayed at a young age. Remember that defining moment recorded in Exodus 1? There Moses floated, in a basket of pitch, his life hanging in the balance, hovering over enemy waters; yet there Miriam stood at his side, like a pillar of fire, watching over him from the bullrushes, protecting him till an Egyptian princess approached the waters to bathe. Not just any princess though, but Pharaoh’s daughter! The same cruel, tyrannical Pharaoh who’d placed Moses in this predicament to begin with, calling for the extermination of all Jewish boys under the age of two! But like David before Goliath and Daniel before the lions and Peter before the Sanhedrin, young Miriam, even as a little slave girl before a seeming goddess, had the fortitude to rise and be named among the righteous. Refusing to abandon her infant brother to the river’s flow, not crumbling under the weight of the crucible as many would have, she made that crucial offer that got Moses out of that basket, back into his mother’s arms, and eventually into a palace where God would groom him into the greatest man the world had yet seen. If I could write an epitaph over Miriam’s life, it would simply say this: “Before Moses delivered God’s people; Miriam delivered Moses.”

Friend, let’s not wait for the funeral to express the good we see in our brothers and sisters. Let’s eulogize them now, while they’re still with us, even while you’re still at odds! Because that’s when it means the most.