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Someone dies. But that is only the beginning.

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Each day, Daniel Slotnick, a news assistant at The New York Times, handles dozens of letters requesting a loved one’s obituary run in the paper. But because space is limited, Slotnick is forced to deliver bad news to a lot of families. “You say, unfortunately, we have to pass on a lot of worthy people,” Slotnick said. “You never want to suggest that they don’t deserve one or that the life in unworthy.” What kind of person does make it into the obit section? Times obituaries go to the famous, influential, offbeat and those whose stories can turn into newsprint literature. “The nature of obituary writing, it is a very intimate act,” said Margalit Fox, a Times obituary writer. “You have to take in through inhalation every facet of this stranger’s life.”