Part of my job at the Chronicle is writing Postscripts, tribute obituary stories about local people who have died.
I go to a lot of funerals.
Of all the things I write for the paper, Postscripts are my favorite.
Many times the families call me after a death — sometimes even before, when a death is imminent — but not always. Sometimes I learn of a death in an obituary or on social media.
Sometimes I have to hunt to find family members and friends to talk to, or I call the funeral homes and they put me in touch with people.
A few times I’ve just shown up at a funeral with my notepad and pen and listen to the eulogies.
And for each funeral I attend, I am made richer for having learned about people. Not just the people who have died, but the people who loved them.
So far this year among those I’ve written about there has been a ’60’s beat generation songwriter, a Pop Warner football coach, boat captains, farmers, war veterans, several people whose Citrus County roots go back 100 or more years, a superstar in the bass tournament fishing world, business people, people well-known to many and those who were only known to a few but who were nevertheless well-loved.
I take this part of my job seriously, sacredly. I come in to a group of people who are often raw with emotion, with sorrow and shock, and they entrust me with their memories and stories, and I make triple sure to get the details right.
Recently, I read a story in Christianity Today about obituaries and how they date back to about 59 B.C. when Julius Caesar ordered the publishing and distribution of news of daily events, including deaths of prominent people.
During the Civil War, newspapers listed the names of the war dead, the first time “regular” people’s deaths were made public record.
The Christianity Today writer said obits can help us better love our neighbors because they impact people who read them, whether they knew the deceased or not.
Last year I wrote about a 17-year-old who had been hit by a car while out walking with a friend. After his death, he helped save the lives of five people who received his donated organs.
I also wrote about a little girl who was not expected to survive her birth, yet she lived
10 months. A community was inspired by the way her young parents cared for her and the way their faith in God allowed them to grieve with a sadness mixed with hope and joy.
I’ve learned that not everyone lives a big life, but every life has value. Every life is a gift from God and every person’s life tells a story.
Some, as with those who die as a result of their choices and lifestyle, tell a cautionary tale. Others, an inspiration.
Many stories are perhaps a little of both.
As for me, I hope my final story will be one where people reading it will say, “Because of her, I was drawn to Jesus.”
Nancy Kennedy is the author of “Move Over, Victoria — I Know the Real Secret,” “Girl on a Swing” and “Lipstick Grace.” She can be reached at 352-564-2927 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.