Thursday, October 1, 2015

Find the Good: Unexpected Life Lessons from a Small-Town Obituary Writer, by Heather Lende

Heather Lende is a writer who lives in Haines, Alaska. One of her jobs is writing obituaries for the local newspaper, experience she drew on when asked to write an essay providing "a piece of wisdom to live by." Turning that essay into this little book--you can read it in an hour or two--she reflects on the lives of people whose obituaries she has written and on episodes in her own life to illustrate the life lesson: find the good, in your life, in the people you know, in the community in which you live, in everything.

The stories Lende tells are funny and moving, covering such events in her own life as her youngest daughter's unplanned premarital pregnancy to her sister's styling of Heather for their father's retirement party in New York. The people whose obituaries she has written represent the kind of people you would expect to find in a small town, with perhaps an added twist of eccentricity found only in Alaska.

While the point Lende makes may not be the most original or philosophically complex, it is certainly worth considering, all the more so because finding the good is not something she came to easily herself. Find the Good is an easy read, but the challenge it lays out may be difficult: find the positive, turn away from the critical, savor your life no matter how big or small.

Favorite passages:
I believe gratitude comes from a place in your soul that knows the story could ahve ended differently, and often does . . .

There is no good in missing someone so badly you can't even hum.

We may not be able to control when children throw up or a spouse leaves us or when one of the altos has a stroke between morning worship and the evening church potluck and won't ever be returning for the dress shoes she left by the coatrack when she pulled on her snow boots. . . . but we can keep on singing. This is how we give each other a little lift on low notes, and a smile on the high ones, or share the effort in those places where staggered breathing is the only way to make it to the end of the day.

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