Find the Good

Find the Good

The guy a couple streets over is a great big jerk.

He’s one of those bad apples Mom always told you about: sour, rotten, and not anybody you’d ever pick. No, he’s not exactly your idea of Friend Material but you do admire his green thumb. He deserves every gardening award he gets.

That’s another thing Mom always said: everybody has their positives, and in “Find the Good” by Heather Lende, you’ll see how they’re often easy to spot.

Tiny little Haines, Alaska, population “about 2,000,” is a lot like that TV show where everybody knows your name – and that includes Heather Lende, the obituary writer at the local newspaper. She, in fact, knows more than most about her neighbors, and she knows that every one has good in them.

“Find the good.” That’s her mantra when she meets with families of the deceased and sets out to write about the “truths” that will “outlive the facts of this person’s life…” A priest once said that Lende has a “calling” for pulling those from grieving minds, but the fact is this: “People lead all kinds of interesting and fulfilling lives, but they all end.” And, like a grumpy, curmudgeonly miner who spent his early days with a hard heart, people change and soften. Like the beloved father who taught his daughters to fish on a boat he’d made by hand, accidents happen. Like the Native American elder who couldn’t read, so he became a “skilled listener,” or the father who quit a lucrative job to spend time with his family, people adapt. And they die.

But before they were gone, did they find their deepest desire? Did they embrace a dream? Did they, like an elderly woman who loved her trampoline, know happiness? When an older man left his belongings to charity, Lende found box after poignant box of greeting cards he’d saved, and a story. Did he find the sense of family he didn’t know he’d missed?

Being an obituary writer can make one angry, sad, and tearful. “Every recent death dredges up every other loss, which compounds the grief,” but finding the good.

“This,” says Lende, “is what I do.”

Before you start reading “Find the Good,” be sure you know someone who embroiders or does needlepoint. You’ll be keeping her busy because page after page of this delicious book is filled with truisms you’ll want framed to hang on your wall.

At a time when everything you read seems poised to tear your mood apart, author Heather Lende pulls it back up again with this unlikely book on the darkest of subjects – but death isn’t all you’ll find here. In addition to positivity, Lende also finds humor in everyday life, beauty in her surroundings, and the places where optimism hides.

And that is much more than just good.

If today’s outlook is cloudy with a chance of gloom, here’s the thing to reach for, and you’ll feel better. Then feel free to share, because “Find the Good” is wonderfulness to its core.

The Bookworm is Terri Schlichenmeyer. Email her at

More in Life

Minister’s Message: The power of small beginnings

Tiny accomplishments lead to mighty successes in all areas of life

A copy of “Once Upon the Kenai: Stories from the People” rests against a desk inside the Peninsula Clarion’s offices on Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2022, in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Off the Shelf: Hidden history

‘Once Upon the Kenai’ tells the story behind the peninsula’s landmarks and people

Artwork by Graham Dale hangs at the Kenai Art Center in Kenai, Alaska, on Tuesday, Aug. 2, 2022. These pieces are part of the “Sites Unseen” exhibition. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Apart and together

‘Sites Unseen’ combines the work of husband and wife pair Graham Dane and Linda Infante Lyons

Homemade garlic naan is served with a meal of palak tofu, butter chicken, basmati rice and cucumber salad. (Photo by Tressa Dale/Peninsula Clarion)
On the strawberry patch: Naan for a crowd

When it comes to feeding a group, planning is key

P.F. “Frenchy” Vian poses with a cigar and some reading material, probably circa 1920, in an unspecified location. (Photo courtesy of the Viani Family Collection)
Unraveling the story of Frenchy, Part 6

The many vital chapters in the story of Frenchy fell into place

Jesus, God of miracles, provides

When you are fishing or eating them, remember how Jesus of Nazareth used fish in some of his miracles

Sugar cookies are decorated with flowers of royal icing. (Photo by Tressa Dale/Peninsula Clarion)
Blooming sugar cookies

These sugar cookies are perfectly soft and delicious, easy to make, and the dough can be made long in advance

Minister’s Message: What God wants you to know

Do you ever have those moments when you turn toward heaven and ask God, “What do You want with me?”

Eventually, all but one of Frenchy’s siblings would live for a time in the United States. Carlo Viani, pictured here in the early 1900s, also spent some time in Alaska. (Photo courtesy of the Viani Family Collection)
Unraveling the story of Frenchy, Part 5

By many accounts, P.F. “Frenchy” Vian appears to have been at least an adequate game warden for Kenai

Will Morrow (courtesy)
Room for growth

Plants that require lots of watering, fertilizer, mulching for the winter, other constant care? The moose can have them

"Protection: Adaptation and Resistance" includes these robes, "Kaxhatjaa X'óow: Herring Protectors," made by Káakaxaawulga/Jennifer Younger, K'asheechtlaa/Louise Brady and Carol Hughey. The show is on exhibit at the Pratt Museum & Park in Homer, Alaska, through Sept. 24, 2022. (Photo by Michael Armstrong/Homer News)
Art of resistance

Pratt show features Native art of the pandemic and beyond