The cover of Destanne Norris’s book, Leah’s Gift, features one of her paintings from 1985, 10 years before the death of her young daughter, Leah. Norris will hold a book signing at Gallery Vertigo in Vernon on Oct. 2 and at the Salmon Arm Art Gallery on Nov. 14. (Contributed)

Former Shuswap resident’s book describes how child’s death transforms mother’s life

Destanne Norris to hold book signings in Vernon and Salmon Arm

A book from a Vernon author that revolves around the death of a child is also a celebration of love, of life and its mysteries.

Destanne Norris, who once lived in Salmon Arm, has completed a book 25 years after her one-and-a-half-year-old daughter, Leah, drowned in the Maligne River near Jasper.

‘Leah’s Gift: A Story about Reframing Loss,’ focuses on how such a loss can transform life.

“This is a story that has been growing inside of me for many years and I’m so happy to finally share it with the world. The experience of losing my daughter utterly transformed my life and I hope that in sharing my story I can touch the hearts of others a million times over,” Norris said.

Norris is an established artist whose work is both exhibited and collected. After Leah’s death, she discovered signposts along her life’s path. Fully eight years before Leah was born, Norris, then an undergraduate, had painted a child in the water, a painting which is now on the cover of the book.

At that time she had no idea why, at age 25, she was interested in painting a baby. It remained a mystery until 10 years later when Leah died.

“I was connecting all these dots – things that I said, I did, I wrote, even before she was born. They were like these little signposts…”

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Hours before Leah died, Norris walked through the door with groceries and Leah came down the hallway to see her.

“She looked at me with this look – she had this really weird look in her eyes,” Norris recounts, describing it as a look that chilled her. She asked the nanny if Leah had just woken up and they said no.

“It was so starry-eyed, the clearest, lightest look, other-worldly. It was light,” she said.

Norris said her ex-husband saw the same look about 10 minutes before Leah died.

There is a mysterious dance between past and present, she says, and our earthly existence is shrouded in mystery that is ultimately not ours to know.

But we can live fullest in the moment in faith, in hope and in love, she suggests.

“Life is to be lived. We don’t need to die with our loved ones, we can live the fulfilling, loving life without them.”

Norris did not want her book to come across as a book on grieving, but a way to reframe the challenging questions people may be living with, leading them to positive changes.

“I would love for the reader to feel moved to trust what they know to be true for themselves and to take action in their lives.”

Destanne Norris will be at Gallery Vertigo in Vernon on Friday, Oct. 2, from 4 to 7 p.m.

On Saturday, Nov 14, Norris will be at the Salmon Arm Arts Centre from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.


marthawickett@saobserver.net
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