Charles Wohlforth described Eva Saulitis, who wrote about dying:
Writer Eva Saulitis composed her progress toward death as gracefully as one of her poems, right up to her last breath, which she breathed with her family at home in Homer [Alaska] on Saturday afternoon.
Saulitis, 52, wrote in ADN’s We Alaskans about her approaching death from breast cancer in September and in a book she finished on the subject, titled “Becoming Earth,” to be published by Boreal Books.
She even wrote about helping create her own coffin, a basket woven by family and friends from tree branches and other materials they contributed.
“What at first felt strange became natural, to be doing this weaving together of a casket,” she wrote. “It's what's been asked of us, of my family, it's what I've asked of them, and they've said yes. They've said yes to living my dying with me, until I turn off the trail for the last part of the journey, which can only be taken alone."
I met Saulitis in 2005 while I was working on a book about Prince William Sound. Her husband, Craig Matkin, an orca whale biologist, took me along on a research cruise to meet up with whales congregating there. The crew turned out to be just the three of us, and I ended up writing more about Saulitis than about the whales.
Her openly expressed spiritual connection with the place demonstrated what I wanted to say. I was looking for a way to show how these places matter to us. Saulitis was brave enough to declare, in poetry, essays and her scientific work, that the mountains, the depths and the whales swimming among them had deep, mysterious meaning, importance beyond their physical value.