Where Yellow Flowers Bloom: Kim Cantin’s Successful Search for Meaning

By Jeff Wing   |   May 2, 2023

In the wee-hours and pitch darkness of a howling January morning, a mountainside loosed itself and descended like a wave of stone on the sleeping, forested village of Montecito. Moments before, awakened by the roar of rain jackhammering the roof of the Cantin home, Kim and husband Dave had thrown back the sheets and hurriedly pulled on some clothes. The Cantin kids, Jack and Lauren, huddled together in the living room, murmuring to each other and watching their parents with concern. The cyclonic night sky outside intermittently flashed a macabre sulfurous yellow as gas lines were torn like paper straws by an onrushing wall of destruction. When the maddening noise and violence outside were joined by what sounded like ricocheting bullets, Kim and Dave realized this was the sound of large rocks – boulders – borne down the mountain by the annihilating landslide and striking each other as they tumbled. In a nightmare coup de grâce then, the Cantins’ power went out. Dave opened the front door to get a glimpse of what they were facing. We’ll never know what it was Dave Cantin saw. He slammed the door and yelled for his family to run for the back door.

“There’s a book by a man named Viktor Frankl,” Kim Cantin says today. “It’s called Man’s Search for Meaning. Frankl says that if you go through something terrible, you need to find a purpose in the tragedy.” Cantin pauses. “If this book I’ve written can help someone who’s going through grief – maybe it helps just one person – that’s putting purpose to this unimaginable stuff that Lauren and I went through. That’s good, right?” Helping people surmount their grief is self-evidently good. Cantin’s rhetorical question hints at the terrible enormity of her family’s experience.

Kim Cantin has written a book, Where Yellow Flowers Bloom, that will no doubt slot neatly into the PR category of “Inspirational Reading,” but in fact details a degree of horrific, indescribable loss that beggars description, and arguably tests one’s faith in a benign universe. Kim and Lauren Cantin’s victory is that they came through absolute smothering darkness and havoc to show – not just tell – that Love is not a “feeling” or a giddy emotional state, but a nearly material force of nature.

“I was living a busy life. I had two wonderful kids, a great husband, and we were involved in the community we loved. I hadn’t really faced significant grief before this.” Cantin’s husband Dave and her son, Jack, would lose their lives in the incomprehensibly violent calamity. Her daughter Lauren would be buried alive — and six hours later disinterred by a team of first responders who’d heard her faint cries and would spend hours delicately digging their way to her. In the aftermath, Dave was later found. Jack was not. 

The wisecracking, vibrant young Eagle Scout was hidden in the Earth somewhere under 30 square miles of debris field, his absence manifesting as a variably heartbreaking and energizing omnipresence. Cantin’s search for Jack galvanized her, even as dump trucks and heavy machinery began frustratingly hauling tons of debris away. Raised as a person of faith, trained as an engineer and scientist, Kim accepted the proffered help of “intuitives” whose inexplicable insights might help her find Jack. Their efforts and collaborations yielded uncanny episodes of discovery. 

“We’re more than our physical bodies,” Kim says. “I’m very clear on that. We borrow a physical body while we’re here on Earth, but I believe my loved ones and others are in pure joy.” The more tactile metaphysics of ordinary human life were aglow in the smashed ruins of the disaster – Lauren’s mud-covered, madly grinning first responders; the community’s volunteer Bucket Brigade who threw themselves at forensically searching the debris field; the one-time strangers who made Kim’s mission their own. Cantin’s advice for anyone crushed by grief and torment? “When passing through hell, just keep going. The antidote is people. Stay with the people that lean in. Guess what? I didn’t know those people before, and they spent three years with me, looking for my son’s remains. They entered my life; angels entered my life. They leaned in, and they are now treasured friends. There are no such thing as coincidences.” 

Kim Cantin will be signing her book at Tecolote Book Shop in Montecito’s Upper Village (1470 E Valley Rd.) on Saturday, April 29 at 6 p.m. For more information call (805) 969-4977, or email books@tecolotebookshop.com. 


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