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Book Review: Lost Canyon: A Story of Loss, A Journey of Healing by Sean Fleming

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Sean Fleming lost his son to a gun accident, or what may have been suicide. The author does not have the answers to why his son died. He did not see any warning signs, and there was no suicide note, no explanation given for why his son left him, by choice or not. Fleming recalls, in these pages, the horrible night of Canyon’s death, the factors involved, how his young children discovered their brother’s body, the horror and confusion of that experience, and the years of pain and coping that followed.

Fleming’s grief is at times real and raw, at other times comforted by his spiritual beliefs and the sense that his son’s death has been an unwanted, yet surprising gift to all the family because it taught them to treasure life all the more and to value memories of the past they otherwise may not have recalled or found to be so meaningful.

In mourning his son, Fleming came to know layers of Canyon’s personality he did not fully recognize or appreciate before. Canyon did not always follow the rules of the world or agree with what should be considered important; he was less interested in success or winning than in finding magic in life and in showing love to his family. Fleming admits he did not even know how much his son was loved and appreciated by others until he saw the outpouring of love at the funeral and among all Canyon’s friends. Canyon was a blessing in many lives, but that leaves the author all the more confused when he asks the nagging question “Why?” and grasps for answers. “As much as he loved life, why would he kill himself? I don’t have an answer to that. All I know is that sometimes people do things in a moment of confusion or weakness that does not necessarily reflect who they are.”

Fleming comes to the conclusion that he can never understand why, but he also realizes his son’s life was an extraordinary gift to him from which he keeps learning:

“I learned wonderful things about my boy after he passed on that I might not have ever learned, or at least appreciated the same way, while he was alive. I certainly don’t mean my life is better this way, but losing Canyon taught me to appreciate my other children on a different level. This awareness only came from having the presence of mind to celebrate his life and the value of his life. I learned to see little gems, such as the red-shell sand on the beach in Hawaii.

“Canyon paid a tremendous price so his family and others who knew him could have an added depth in their lives, a new way of seeing the world that we couldn’t have experienced in any other way. This experience is impossible to put a price on and shouldn’t be compared. I honor my son best when I live in a manner that would make him proud of me as a father and a man.”

Lost Canyon offers no easy answers to death, no process to overcome grief, but simply an honest look at how a family grieves and the hope and life that exist beyond that grief. While Fleming focuses largely on his own grief, he also notes how he grieved differently from his wife and children, and how Canyon’s loss changed the dynamics of his family members’ relationships; they each learned to grieve and cope in their own ways.

Most importantly, the book offers hope. The author has a strong spiritual faith, and without preaching religion, he gently offers suggestions about life after death and the meaning of it all. He compares life to that of the water bugs who wonder what happens to their friends who climb up the lily pad, never to return; like the water bugs, we cannot see what lies in the next life or the wonderful experiences yet to come. Fleming relates a vision he had of his son after his death, and ultimately, he concludes about his experiences, “death may be the single greatest invention by a creator in this life, because it causes us to question on such a deep level.”

Anyone who has experienced a loss will find hope and meaning in this story. Fleming has written this book in hopes it will help someone else through grief and to come to new understanding. He knows grief is a long and difficult process—he is publishing this book ten years after his son’s death—but he also knows it is a worthwhile process, one that continues to provide questions, hope, and inspiration. Lost Canyon can be an emotional, but also a powerful and priceless, reading experience that remains with readers in their hearts and souls.

For more information about Lost Canyon and Sean Fleming, visit the author’s Amazon page.

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