I always read them in our Sunday paper. Sometimes it takes me an hour to eat breakfast. I take a few bites of egg, a sip of coffee, and keep reading. More intently some Sundays than others. It’s a small indulgence to pour over the lives of others, to share their stories.
I love obituaries because they are, above all else, a celebration of life. If the concept did not exist, we would never have the opportunity to know of the full, interesting lives that people in our community have had. I’ll never meet most of the planet’s inhabitants. I’ll never even meet most of the people who live in my city. But reading about the lives of people in my community who have worked, lived, played, and died here touches a place in my soul.
It’s also interesting as all get out. Just this past Sunday, I was perusing the obits, as per usual, (Yes I am married to a patient man), when one story in particular caught my attention.
A man by the name of Lynn “Buck” Compton died last week at 90. Who was Mr. Compton? Someone I would have loved to meet.
He was a WWII veteran, earning a Silver Star and Purple Heart. He was the first lieutenant of Easy Company, the unit that parachuted into France on D-Day and was profiled in the wildly popular book and miniseries Band of Brothers.
Before Mr. Compton went to war, he played football and baseball at UCLA, where he started at guard in the 1943 Rose Bowl against Georgia. The Obituary doesn’t note if they won. I hope for his sake that they did.
After the war, he became a police officer in Los Angeles and put himself through law school. Then he became a district attorney for LA and headed the team that prosecuted Sirhan Sirhan for the murder of Robert F. Kennedy.
THEN he went on to be an appeals court judge for 20 years.
Amazing! What a life. I love to imagine Mr. Compton surrounded by kids and grandkids, telling them stories of parachuting into France and helping to end the war, or of his life as a beat cop in LA, or of helping to imprison the man who killed Bobby Kennedy. This was a man who clearly loved his country and spent his life in service to her.
This is why I love reading obituaries. That small slice of his life printed in the newspaper gave me (and who knows who else!) the chance to “meet” him and to hear his amazing story. What a gift!
I hope the papers never stop printing obituaries.
Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.