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Working to keep a son’s memory alive
BY SHELLEY PAGE, THE OTTAWA CITIZEN
Anyone who says you eventually “move on from” or “get over” the loss of a child is wrong, says Robert Beaudoin. Instead ofmoving forward, he says a parent can get caught between two intense feelings; deep grief, and a need to celebrate your child’sbrief time on Earth.
Jean Levac, CanWest News Service, The Ottawa Citizen
OTTAWA — When Ontario Superior Court Justice Robert Beaudoin leaves next month for Zambia with
20 other lawyers and judges it will be as much a journey to keep his son’s memory alive as a mission to
It has been three-and-a-half years since Iain, a lawyer, died aged 28, and Beaudoin is still picking his
way through the rocky landscape of grief.
Anyone who says you eventually “move on from” or “get over” the loss of a child is wrong, says
Instead of moving forward, the judge says a parent can get caught between two intense feelings; deep
grief, and a need to celebrate your child’s brief time on Earth.
The push and pull of these two contradictory instincts can be overwhelming, but one way to deal with it
is by focusing on the gift that was the child’s life.
“Any bereaved parent will tell you that there are two things that help you cope,” says Beaudoin. “One
impulse you have, when you lose a child, is to make sure their name isn’t lost and people remember
them. The other impulse is to do the kinds of things you think your child would have wanted to do.”
In a quiet voice, Beaudoin describes all he and his wife, Claudia, have done to keep Iain’s name alive,
and participate in activities they imagine he would have enjoyed or found meaning in. This includes
participating in a fundraising play next week at the Great Canadian Theatre Company and organizing
Iain — a husband to Laleah and father to Emma, a then-21-month-old — died in November, 2008, of
myocarditis believed to have been caused by a rare reaction to an anti-inflammatory drug. He was
taking Asacol to treat ulcerative colitis when he began complaining of chest pains. He died at home the
morning he had an appointment scheduled to discuss the results of an echocardiogram.
“Losing a child, it leaves a hole in your life,” Beaudoin explains.
After a few rough months, the first step his family took was to set up a scholarship in Iain’s name at the
University of Ottawa Law School. Beaudoin was also delighted that the law firm Borden Ladner
Gervais, where his son was a second-year patent lawyer, named a meeting room after him.
“So everyday, someone says, ‘You can meet in the Iain Beaudoin room.’”
Next week (April 24 — 28), the County of Carleton Law Association and the GCTC are putting on the
comedy His Girl Friday. The 2012 charity partner is the Zambia School Project, created in memory of
Beaudoin also has a role in the production, set in 1930s Chicago. He will play the crooked mayor, who
along with a crooked sheriff, is “bound and determined to see somebody hung in record time to
This is not his first role. Beaudoin has acted in nine of the so-called Lawyer Play’s 13 productions.
Each year, through Lawyer Play, Ottawa’s legal community raises funds to support the GCTC as well
as a charity of choice. So far, they have raised around one million dollars for GCTC and partner
This year more than $50,000 has been raised in Iain’s memory toward a school in Munenga, Zambia in
partnership with the Emmanuel United Church of Ottawa.
Beaudoin, his wife, and a group of lawyers went to El Salvador through Emmanuel United Church in
2006 to build houses for the working poor.
This project will serve 138 children who don’t currently attend school.
The lawyers will travel to support the project, but Beaudoin points out they won’t actually construct the
building because they don’t want to take jobs away in a country that suffers from wide-scale
“He (Iain) thought it was far more important to go down there and give them skills. We thought building
a school would be in keeping with Iain’s philosophy. He felt strongly about libraries and learning.”
The legal team will meet with Zambia’s legal community and attend a tribal court.
Beaudoin is looking forward to the journey with a heavy but hopeful heart. He feels he is embarking on
an adventure his son would very much appreciate.
“For him to know there will be 138 kids who will now go to school, who otherwise wouldn’t have would
be everything he would be most happy about.”
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