Eulogy on Behalf of the Family
by Roger Stuenkel
Miriam was my sister. We had a division in our family of six children, three older ones, and the three little ones. Miriam was the oldest of the three little ones. We’ve lost our family historian. Miriam had this remarkable ability to remember everything about everyone with whom she had contact, especially, with us, her family.
It was embarrassing. Last summer we were at a family gathering at Shawano. Shawano is an Indian word that means “Place of Stuenkel gatherings,” in Northern Wisconsin, where for every two or three years since the mid-1960’s we have gathered as a complete family, and Miriam was telling me about a wedding that we both went to of one of my classmates and she was telling me of it in detail, and I was nodding like I remembered, and even after she told me the details, I didn’t remember everything of it.
It was because Miriam in all of her interactions with people was focused upon the other, upon your lives, all of us. Not just family. You know that. And she became a historian of those things because they were always meaningful encounters. Today we are all called to be the historians, we are bringing to mind stories about Miriam, and trying to find words to go with the feelings we have and the thoughts we have as we remember her.
I’ll start it off. I remember Miriam as a little girl in our home. My father was a pastor, and many times in our home we would welcome other pastors and they would gather in the living room and they would talk with dad, and others would go in their own other directions, but not Miriam. Miriam would stay in the living room where the pastors were talking, as a little girl. That leads many people to say, “she should have been a pastor.” I’m not going there - except to say that she was a minister. She received the call in baptism and she took that call seriously and she was a minister, a servant, with good theology.
I don’t know if any of you read the Lutheran Women’s Missionary League story that Miriam wrote about her own illness, and in it she had some theological statements, good solid theology that anybody going though hard times should read, and central in there was that one should always be a servant of God and of others, in sickness and in health. To be a servant to others, even in her sickness. And the last ten years she has done profound service and things.
That brings to mind memories within the family. Last night at a prayer as we were all gathered together in the house for supper, our oldest brother Bob led us in prayer and chose the perfect word: “hospitality.” And it made me think, how many times were people gathered in that home for home Bible studies as well as to welcome family? I was there many times and others, and calmly providing food for everyone.
My brother-in-law, John Bruss said yesterday two words. But those two words take on flesh and blood with Miriam. Those two words: “I’ve never seen anyone more compassionate and accepting.” And that becomes real with the life of Miriam as we remember her.
Mark’s sister Marcia used the word relationships. It was always about relationships. That’s what was important with Miriam. And then recounts her own story of just this past summer as we were back in the Midwest that Miriam spent a most meaningful day with her, just what Marcia needed. And finally said to Marcia, “What would you like to do today, for you?” because Marcia was going through a hard time with her husbands illness. Ministry, the call to ministry with a good theology.
She was called to be the commencement speaker at Concordia University, Mequon, WI several years ago. It was the school at which my father also served, and was a very meaningful place to us and meaningful for her to return, and she turned that winter commencement address into something of an autobiographic statement, wonderful stories that she told also in relating how, in being a school counselor, how she had learned so much from the children, and she told story after story of those children. And then as you see, in the worship folder, in her obituary, it talks about this Masai greeting. The Masai greeting is: “And how are the children?” That’s how they greet each other. “How are the children?” Because if the children are OK, then the whole society is OK. Last Saturday night her children were gathered around the bed, and Lucas said, “I think she heard us and knew that we were all there, and it was OK.” Miriam, how are the children? The children are well and the grandchildren, thanks to God and to Mark and to you.
Finally, Miriam's relationship with Mark. Mark was more than her husband; he was her pastor. About Mark, I can picture Miriam saying many times, “Just great!” Miriam liked her pastor. She said so often how she heard the gospel from him. That gospel would strengthen her. So, finally, how's the child
Miriam? The child is with Christ, crucified and risen. The child is well.
Pastor Roger Stuenkel, Brother
Retired, Green Valley, AZ