Christmas brings heartbreak to Turgeon

Pierre Turgeon with his family. (Courtesy Turgeon family)

Pierre Turgeon with his family. (Courtesy Turgeon family)

MARC DE FOY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:10 PM ET

The death of a child is a parent's worst nightmare.

Like any parents, Pierre and Elisabeth Turgeon would feel a twinge of sympathy whenever they saw news reports about children who had died.

But life went on, and four beautiful children helped Turgeon enjoy retirement following a stellar 19-year NHL career.

Everything changed a little over a year ago when one of his daughters was taken from him.

Just before Christmas, on Dec. 23, 2010, 18-year-old Elizabeth, twin sister of Alexandra, died on a foggy road in New Mexico.

The pickup truck she was driving collided with a semi-trailer at an intersection. She died instantly.

Brittany Kraemer, her best friend and hockey teammate, was critically injured but survived.

It was the first time Elizabeth had been away from the family for the holidays.

The rest of the clan was in Calgary where Turgeon was preparing to celebrate Christmas with his brother, Sylvain.

Elizabeth was a sociable young woman who had many friends and played spirited hockey. Turgeon, in an interview with QMI Agency from his home in suburban Denver, Colo., recalled how his daughter would throw herself into the corners like a bowling ball to dig out the puck.

A member of the U.S. world champion under-16 team, Long Island-born Elizabeth was on the verge of earning a spot on the under-18 squad before she died.

The University of Minnesota had offered her a scholarship. Elizabeth had her whole life ahead of her and she spoke often of the future.

Then in an instant, her life ended.

Now, those tragic news reports of parents who lose their children hit close to home for Pierre and Elisabeth Turgeon.

"We are always sad when we learn about another (death)," the former Montreal Canadiens captain said.

"When it happens, you realize the pain it causes family and friends.

"It changes your life."

The Turgeons and their three remaining children are trying cope with the loss of Elizabeth.

"You learn to appreciate every moment," Turgeon, a 42-year-old native of Rouyn-Noranda, Que., said.

"Very often, we ... tend to think about what will happen in 10 days, in two weeks or in a year. But we must realize that we might not be there when that time comes."

Turgeon's wife decided the family needed a change of location this Christmas, so they went to Cancun, Mexico with son Dominic, 15, and daughters Alexandra, 19, and Valerie, 13. The couple's parents joined them.

It was a welcome diversion for Alexandra, a University of Denver volleyball player who was having difficulty coping with the loss of her twin.

"She found it hard the first three or four months," Turgeon said. "She stopped volleyball for a while, but she didn't stop her studies.

"She got better, but doctors we know said she went through another difficult period in the 10th or 11th month following the loss of her sister."

Turgeon said Elizabeth's memory would never leave them.

"Elizabeth is always with us," he said. "After a year, sometimes I get emotional. When I hear songs that remind me of her, I might start crying. I think it will still be like that in 10 years.

But Turgeon says his faith gives him some solace.

"At some point, we'll see her again."


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