TIMMINS, ONT. - A Timmins man has passed away after spending the last 22 years of his life in a coma.
“How do you sum up someone's life in an article?”
These were the words of Jeannine Lajeunesse-Beaulne when she set about the challenge of summarizing the life of her son, Daniel Lajeunesse.
It's a difficult task for any mother, but for Lajeunesse-Beaulne the story is far more complicated.
Daniel suddenly lapsed into a coma 22½ years ago. He was a lively, happy and devoted father and husband, a caring son and a worthy friend who spent those long years dead to the world at Timmins & District Hospital before dying quietly on Nov. 14 at the age of 54.
He was only 32 when his brain drowned in blood.
“The last words he said to me were, 'Mom would you like a coffee?'” said the devoted mother. “He had stopped by my work and asked me if I wanted something, I said yes and that was the last time we spoke.”
From that moment on, for these past 22½ years, Lajeunesse-Beaulne’s life changed dramatically. She never left her son’s side, never gave hoping that he might be returned to her.
“He is in a better place now,” she said. “It hurts to think that he’s gone. Sometimes I cry, sometimes I scream, the hurt will take a long time to go away.”
Lajeunesse-Beaulne lives in the Northglen Trailer Park with her husband, a short drive from the hospital where her son spent so many years.
“I find myself scheduling my days still, telling myself that I’ll have to go see Danny soon,” she said. “But I don’t have to do that anymore. I don’t know what to do with myself sometimes.
"It’s tough because in the winter you can see his window at the hospital from the highway. I can't even go down that street anymore.”
When it came time to collect Daniel’s belongings, the emotion was too much. Lajeunesse-Beaulne couldn’t even enter the hospital.
“When my husband came out with Danny’s wheelchair without Danny in it, it just broke me. I was so upset by the whole thing.”
But Daniel provided his mother with strength in death as he did in life, something that became obvious to Lajeunesse-Beaulne when she rose to give a eulogy at her son’s funeral.
“We entered the church. I sat in the pew, began to take my coat off and the father called on me to speak,” she said. “It was too soon. I needed more time to clear my head, but that was it, I got up, walked to the pulpit and placed my hand on Danny’s casket as I went by.”
Then something special happened.
“That was all it took. The moment my hand touched the casket, everything melted away,” she said. “I forgot everything that I was worrying about and I got through that five-minute eulogy without a problem. But the tears came after.”
Lajeunesse-Beaulne still visits her son, only now she visits his monument. It pains her to do so, but she is as dedicated to him in death as she was in life.
“I visited my boy every single day, except when I was sick,” she said. “Shortly before he died, I asked the Lord, I asked Him that if I should tire, if I should weaken, that he take my son into his arms.”
Minutes before Daniel’s death, Lajeunesse-Beaulne let go of her son’s hand.
“I let go of his hand. I moved and sat at the end of the bed with my husband,” she said. “I saw Danny sit up, his eyes opened and you could see death take him. It broke my heart. What if I had held on? What if I had been stronger?”
Carrying on Daniel's memory are his three children and one grandchild, his parents and a brother and sister.