Wear a Personal Flotation Device

Small town obituary writer Heather Lende shares unique perspectives gleaned from peering retrospectively into so many lives.


| June 2015


As the obituary writer in tiny Haines, Alaska, Heather Lende knows something about last words and lives well lived. Now, she’s distilled what she’s learned about living a more exhilarating and meaningful life into three words: find the good. It’s that simple – and that hard. Lende’s short chapters resonate, reminding us that it’s worth looking at our relationships, our obligations, our priorities, our community, and our world from a fresh, positive perspective. A gift to share with friends and family, Find the Good (Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 2015) offers a way out of the negativity and cynicism that can overwhelm our daily routines.

To find more books that pique our interest, visit the Utne Reader Bookshelf.

When fisherman Richard Boyce first arrived in Alaska he was tenting on the side of a road and was told to leave: There was no camping allowed. He was stunned. He thought that of all places in the world Alaska should welcome campers. Today, the sandwich board across from his driveway reads: FREE CAMPING.  RATES DOUBLE IN JUNE. SENIOR DISCOUNTS AVAILABLE.

Chip and I often saw Richard on our morning bike ride as he was driving to town for coffee. The last time we saw Richard, he pulled his pickup alongside us and even announced our speed, “Twenty miles per hour, twenty-two, back to nineteen,” before waving with a smile from behind his red beard, touching the bill of his cap, and calling out, “Have a good day,” as he zoomed off.



Richard slipped on his salmon gillnetter and fell overboard at about five in the morning on the Fourth of July. The youngest of his three grown-but-still-young daughters — all just a few years out of college — tossed him a life ring and radioed for help. Fellow fishermen pulled their nets and came to the Boyces’ aid. Many arrived in minutes, but Richard wore heavy rain gear and boots, and a strong tidal current pulled him away from the boat and under the water too fast. His body was never recovered. Richard, who had gone to MIT, built that boat, the thirty-nine-foot Eleanor S., named for his oldest daughter, at his cabin on the ridge above his little “campground.”

The day Richard died I was helping out at the hot dog table at the Haines July Fourth picnic. I learned that my neighbor J.R. had handed his helm over to a deckhand and then climbed on board the Eleanor S. with Richard’s daughter for the six-hour trip home. The next woman who reached for a paper plate and bun told me that she felt better knowing J.R. was there. Everyone did. She named a half-dozen fishermen who also turned their boats back and left the lucrative fishing grounds to escort the Eleanor S. home. Once the flotilla was spotted near Battery Point, many in the holiday crowd walked across the park to the harbor and, from behind the bulkhead railing, silently watched as the tall red-haired














Pay Now Save $5!

Utne Summer 2016Want to gain a fresh perspective? Read stories that matter? Feel optimistic about the future? It's all here! Utne Reader offers provocative writing from diverse perspectives, insightful analysis of art and media, down-to-earth news and in-depth coverage of eye-opening issues that affect your life.

Save Even More Money By Paying NOW!

Pay now with a credit card and take advantage of our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. You save an additional $5 and get 4 issues of Utne Reader for only $40.00 (USA only).

Or Bill Me Later and pay just $45 for 4 issues of Utne Reader!




Facebook Instagram Twitter flipboard


Copyright 2018, All Rights Reserved
Ogden Publications, Inc., 1503 SW 42nd St., Topeka, Kansas 66609-1265