My father was one of twelve children. A typical French Canadian family of Northern Ontario, prolific and poor! What I always found humorous was the symmetry of the family’s composition: a tidy six boys and six girls. My dad would tell stories of his childhood home. A room for the boys and one for the girls, children sleeping like match sticks tightly packed in a bed with one or two sleeping perpendicular at their feet. But that perfect symmetry was disrupted in January of 1963!
It is not enough to say with a dozen who misses just one? Each child has unique value and as parents it is the greatest of losses losing a child regardless of how many there are “to spare”. I would venture to say the loss of her son, Jean-Marie, was probably the most difficult trial of my grandmere’s life.
Jean-Marie Loranger, born 31 May 1947, was walking home when he was hit by a car and killed 19 January 1963 in Larder Lake, Ontario. He was 15 years old! Only two years younger than my father, I think my dad felt the loss in a very real way for it was through him that I learned of Jean-Marie as I was growing up. Dad had a photo of his brother and had told us of the accident. Similar in age and the eldest of the boys, I imagine they were not just brothers but friends! My son will be 15 this summer and the thought of such a family tragedy is truly unbearable!
Though I was born over a decade after my uncle’s death and I did not know him I feel a connection. Perhaps it is through the stories of my father, perhaps it is the effect of a photograph on an impressionable mind, but I remember Jean-Marie in my soul. I picture him in my mind’s eye–traipsing through the bush with my dad, skipping rocks in the water, teasing and taunting his sisters. There is possibly a chemical or biological connection to our ancestors that allows us to know and sense things about them regardless of having never met them!
Jean-Marie is buried in the cemetery in Kirkland Lake, Ontario. I am hoping to find a newspaper article detailing the accident from the Temiskaming newspapers in the future.