Back in 2016, while researching book titles that might be of interest for a local book club, I stumbled across – Find the Good: Unexpected Life Lessons From a Small-Town Obituary Writer. Intrigued, I bought a copy of the tiny book and placed it on my TBR shelf. The reading club, limited to 8 titles a year, didn’t select the book. Time marched on and I forgot about it.
My wonderful husband frequently drives me from our cabin in the quiet North Georgia mountains to the Atlanta area to visit my sister in her nursing home; a stressful four hour round-trip on the high-speed interstate highways. It turned out to be the perfect book to read while hurdling down the highway facing the potential of my own imminent demise.
As suggested by the subtitle, obituaries and/or “life stories” play an important part of each of the 18 brief essays. It was easy reading that was tinged with humor, compassion and uplifting stories about newly departed neighbors and friends in the author’s hometown of tiny Haines, Alaska. Finding the Good is just that – interviewing those that knew the departed and finding the good in their life story yet not ignoring their less glamorous moments. The point of each story was crafting an obituary that showed their humanness and reflected the fact that their lives mattered to others.
Embedded in one story is the following quote that seems to sum up the book’s message.
People don’t gather after a death to mourn, but rather to reaffirm why life matters and to remember to exult in the only one we’ll ever have. We hold funerals, memorials, celebrations – whatever you want to call them – to seek and to find the heart of the matter of this trip we all Life.
This tiny treasure is a perfect gift for a friend or family member that enjoys celebrating life and community. It was a reminder to me that even the tiniest flower or the solitary nature of a hermit can impact someone else’s life for the better.
Heather Lende has written some 500 obituaries obituaries for the Chilkat Valley News in Haines, Alaska where she has lived for over thirty years. She has also authored many essays and stories, mostly about life and sometimes death in Haines, Alaska that have been distributed widely from The Anchorage Daily News and Christian Science Monitor to NPR and Country Living. She is a former contributing editor at Woman’s Day magazine. She has also authored three books: Find the Good: Unexpected Life Lessons from a Small-town Obituary Writer (2015),Take Good Care of the Garden and the Dogs (2010), If You Lived Here, I’d Know Your Name: The News From Small-town Alaska (2005). (NY Times bestseller)