Vernon artist draws new meanings from personal loss in debut book

In Leah’s Gift, Destanne Norris explores and re-frames her daughter’s death in 1995

How does a person live with the unanswerable questions that surface after a loved one dies?

This question is at the heart of the debut book by Vernon artist Destanne Norris. Leah’s Gift: A Story about Reframing Loss is an autobiographical story that centres on the tragic loss of Norris’ daughter, Leah, who drowned at one-and-a-half years old in 1995.

Norris’ book on the loss of her daughter is a long time coming, and the result is a deeply touching meditation on the transformative powers of love, loss and art.

“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,” Norris said. “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.”

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An established artist known for luxurious landscape oil paintings, Norris weaves her art into the narrative of Leah’s Gift with paintings and drawings presented in full colour alongside the text. For Norris, paintings she created 10 years before her daughter’s birth become premonitions in this context, as demonstrated by her reflections on the first painting found between the pages of Leah’s Gift.

“Where had this image come from? Why was I attracted to painting a baby? I have no idea. At 25 years old, I was not even thinking about being a mother. […] Its meaning remained a mystery to me until 1995, 10 years later.”

In sharing her story, Norris hopes to inspire people to reframe the challenging questions they may be living with, leading them to make positive changes that benefit themselves and those they love.

Now available on, the book received advance praise from New York Times Bestselling Author Peggy McColl, among others.

“Leah’s Gift is a gift of love to all who are blessed to read this great book. The author is sharing a heart-wrenching journey and the valuable lessons learned to help anyone dealing with loss or grief,” McColl says.

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Norris will be touring through various cities in B.C. and Alberta to read excerpts from Leah’s Gift and discuss in greater detail the artwork between its pages, the writing process and the life-altering experience at the centre of it all.

Book signings have been scheduled for Sept. 23 in Lake Country, Oct. 2 in Vernon, Oct. 3 in Kelowna and Oct. 8 in Jasper, Alta. Further information on these events will be posted on

Norris has exhibited paintings in public, university and artist-run galleries. Her work has been collected by the Alberta Foundation for the Arts, the Penticton Art Gallery, Jasper National Park, the Consulate General Japan and Finning Canada to name a few. She is currently represented by Gallery Odin at SilverStar Mountain Resort.

Brendan Shykora
Reporter, Vernon Morning Star
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