THE passing of those who have lived extraordinary lives, or suffered extraordinary deaths, will often be marked in ink, preserved in print and headlines that live on in newspaper archives and family albums.

Reporting unobtrusively from the back pew of many a funeral has given me a privileged insight into the rich lives of strangers, snapshots of memories I was never a part of often leaving me with the sense of missing a friend I’d never known.

As journalists, we are there in the midst of tragedies that touch the heart of communities and we are there to pay tribute to stalwarts, stars and those who have rose to prominence, those whose lives were lived publicly and, often, those whose lives came to an unexpected end.

We must sit on the press bench of coroner’s courts and do our best to uphold the principles of open court as we hear intimate, heart-rending details at inquests that will never leave us.

Whether we like it or not, we become purveyors of public grief and it’s a role that weighs heavily and is always treated with gravity.

Understandably, our approaches are not always welcomed by grieving families, our appearances on the doorstep or at inquests often seeming horribly intrusive.

In the face of overwhelming loss, our presence can be hard to swallow, our role within the court system difficult to equate with the privacy and intimacy most anticipate when grieving for a loved one.

We’re not heartless and it’s always with trepidation that we will make our approach, but make it we must – not only to ensure court proceedings do not go on behind closed doors but also to ensure that relatives and friends are given a voice where they may want it – and many do want it.

With relief, I’ve been invited into living rooms to hear colourful stories of wonderful people and inspirational tales of those who have made a difference.

I’ve also been welcomed by those who need us, who are desperate for the plight of their relatives to be highlighted – families who are keen for us to help them in holding authorities and institutions to account for what happened to their loved ones.

Difficult as it is – and it is – to face the wrath of those who don’t want to see us during some of the worst moments they’ll ever experience, I will always consider it a vital part of my job to offer them the opportunity to speak out, to pay tribute or to highlight a legacy that could benefit others.

Almost without exception, it is the extraordinary lives and deaths that make it to print and, as I sat at my own grandmother’s funeral last week, I pondered on this.

Eva Longstaff’s strength of character, her 67-year-long marriage to Tommy, love of dancing and enduring kindness were not enough to inspire headlines.

Outside of this column, her ordinarily wonderful life will not be immortalised in print or archived.

If circumstances had invited an obituary, I would have welcomed the approach of any reporter who wanted to showcase my grandmother’s heart of gold to the world.

And while I respect those who detest our intrusion, I’ll always be grateful to have the privilege of being able to offer others the chance to immortalise their loved ones, to fight for them when they’re gone.