The Life-Affirming Beat of an Alaska Obituaries Writer

Heather Lende talks to Here & Now about her new book.

Each Chilkat Valley News assignment affords different lessons. But as obituary writer and author Heather Lende told NPR’s Here & Now, in the case of Russ Murray, a cemetery employee, it started with the fact that after the man’s death, it was discovered that he had been out of contact with his family for 38 years.

Lende, who also writes for the Alaska Dispatch News, has titled her book Find the Good: Unexpected Lessons from a Small-Town Obituary Writer. After the aforementioned Murray passed away in 2012 at age 76, a collection of greeting cards and letters from family members – sent during just the last few years of his life – was found:

“The thing that sticks with me about that obituary is that when I asked his brother, ‘What happened?’, his brother said to me: ‘It doesn’t matter. All that matters is that we found him again and were reunited, and we had a couple of good years together before he died.”

Fellow author Sharon Salzberg has praised the book, suggesting that Find The Good “reminds us to live in the moment and to pay attention to those around us.” That’s not just a rave; it’s also great life advice, whether you choose to read Lende’s tome or not.
[Jacket cover courtesy: Algonquin Books]