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A Tree For Miriam



Maybe you read my Christmas post about the death from cancer that day of my sweet friend Miriam Jeurissen, who lived in Amsterdam. Tonight I received this e-mail:

Dear Rod,

Thank you for you writing on Miriam. Miriam was a very dear friend to me too…

I have been given some days and nights to look after her in the last few days of her life. I think your prayer might have helped her to find her way home. It seemed that she was so lost…

I send you a picture of the “tree of life”, that I made for her; to  me she has always embodied the energy to live…

I send you warm greetings,

Sylvia van Opstall

Above, a photo of the “Levensboom,” or Tree Of Life, that Sylvia made for Miriam.

Last night I spoke for a long time via FaceTime with my friend Marnix, who was a high school classmate of Miriam. We met thanks to her. Miriam and Marnix went their separate ways after high school, and didn’t really keep in touch. Yesterday, though, Marnix and I reflected with gratitude on how we owe our 30-year friendship to dear Miriam.

Miriam’s sister Beatrice, who has been my friend for as long as I’ve known Miriam, asked me
if I would like to write a eulogy to be read at Miriam’s memorial service on January 3. I was deeply honored by the request, but told Beatrice I didn’t want to put her in the position of having to read it, inasmuch as I can’t afford to go to Amsterdam for the event. I explained that I didn’t want to put her in the position of trying to speak through tears (I remembered the eulogy I delivered at my sister’s funeral, and how at one point I broke down and had to stop). Great-souled woman that she is, Beatrice said she didn’t mind crying some more, for the sake of honoring Miriam.

Well, when I told this to Marnix, my gallant friend said he would be honored to go to the memorial service and deliver the speech in my stead, and as his gift to Miriam. And so he will. I have tears in my eyes just thinking of it, how much I owe that Dutch girl. All this generosity, and all this love, and it all started with a girl who said yes to friendship, and for three decades kept saying yes, and yes, and at the last, even when her strength was failing, yes again.

Happy happy happy. Sad, yes, but happy. The bright sadness. Sylvia van Opstaal surely knows what I’m talking about.

Amsterdam, June 2013
Amsterdam, June 2013

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. He has written and edited for the New York Post, The Dallas Morning News, National Review, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the Washington Times, and the Baton Rouge Advocate. Rod’s commentary has been published in The Wall Street Journal, Commentary, the Weekly Standard, Beliefnet, and Real Simple, among other publications, and he has appeared on NPR, ABC News, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, and the BBC. He lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, with his wife Julie and their three children. He has also written four books, The Little Way of Ruthie Leming, Crunchy Cons, How Dante Can Save Your Life, and The Benedict Option.

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