Some Christians stop eating meat. Some give up Facebook. Some read the Psalms. When I was a young minister in Indiana, I began reading the obituaries for Lent. The Paoli News-Republican came out on Tuesday and Friday. A normal edition included two or three obituaries that were written by the newspaper’s staff. No family was ever charged for an obituary.
The writers interviewed the deceased’s family, friends, and ministers to help them express their gratitude for the person’s life. These tributes included sentiments like, “He never met a stranger” and “She laughed every day.” Reading the obituaries reminded me that people are often good and that I need to make my days count.
The obituaries in The New York Times are different from the ones in The Paoli News-Republican. Most of the people in Paoli would balk at paying $263 for the first four lines and $52 per line thereafter with 28 characters per line. Most of the people in my old church would not be able to read the tiny seven point san serif font without a magnifying glass.
But it is Lent, so on Sunday I sat down with my hometown newspaper to look for what matters in that day’s obituaries. Here is what I found—still in alphabetical order:
Lerone Bennett, Jr., 89, wrote Before the Mayflower in which he noted that the first blacks arrived in the colonies in 1619, the year before the Mayflower. He worked to prepare students to live in a multi-racial society.
Leonard Gubar, 81, was a dedicated fan of the Mets, Giants, Rangers and Knicks. He was a nationally ranked Scrabble player and a routine finisher of The New York Times crossword puzzle.
Marvin S. Hans, M.D., 91, was a music lover—especially Frank Sinatra.
Robert B. Hiden, Jr., 84, served as a vestryman and Junior Warden of St. John’s Episcopal Church.
Zita Kremnitzer was born in Berlin, Germany, in 1922. She survived the Holocaust and immigrated to New York in 1947.
Elizabeth Landauer, 80, served as a Girl Scout leader for many years.
Patricia Rashkin, 74, chose a career as a guardian for those unable to fend for themselves—spending more than three decades with the City of New York’s protective services.
William Selden, 70, businessman, philanthropist, sportsman, dog-lover, and innate comedian. He was a long-time supporter of the Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind.
Alan Lewis Stein, 88, founded the not-for-profit affordable housing entity, Bridge Housing. Bridge has participated in the development of more than 17,000 units of housing, providing homes for 42,500 people.
Constance Sultan, 84, worked for 30 years at Mt. Sinai Hospital, where she was the charge nurse in the baby nursery.
Reading the obituaries sounds gloomy, but that has not been my experience. I am glad to be reminded that people are often good. Being encouraged to make my days count feels like preparing for Easter.