It was a long, arduous week, but one I’ll never forget.

Looking back on it, I learned more than I ever thought possible.

I’ve handled many duties in 35-plus years in newspapering, but writing obituaries was not one of them.

I stepped forward to assume the role of obituary writer in the absence of Lugene Hudson, who gave me a crash course before leaving for a well-earned week’s vacation.

After all, it was a wonderful chance to learn more about the people of Lawrence County — those who call the county home and those who have left, for a variety of reasons and opportunities.

I was ready for the challenge, but the first two days were difficult. The lives of 20 people flashed before my eyes during those two shifts.

For each of those people, I was responsible for taking information provided by family members and funeral homes and pulling it together for a final tribute. At once, I was reporting news and preserving a lifetime of memories for family and friends of the deceased.

People deserve nothing less than the best we can give them. Yet one wrong name, one missed letter and neither goal is accomplished.

But mistakes happen sometimes, no matter how hard you try to avoid them. When they happen, re-runs are in order, and there were a few last week.

In some strange way, I came to know the men and women who had left the world as I read the details of their lives, learning about the talents they had, the pursuits they enjoyed, the clubs they belonged to, the causes they believed in, the disabilities they endured and the families they left behind.

Their ages ranged from 26 to 92.

There is always pain in losing a loved one, but a life lived long and well is to be celebrated. Most fit that category, but not all. Children losing their parents is expected, but not the other way around. One who died last week had lost two infant sons and an infant sister.

They were military leaders, business leaders, spiritual leaders and union leaders.

I marveled at their accomplishments. Sometimes, I have trouble just getting the grass cut each week.

My advice is to read the obituaries every day. Not only will you learn a lot, you’ll be inspired.

It won’t be in my obituary, but one of the most important things I ever did in my life was write about the people who lost theirs last week.

(Normally, Dave Burcham is a part-time copy editor and reporter at The News.)

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