Jake Langille died on an air mattress at the age of 27 in his mother’s Kelowna apartment on Jan. 22, 2017.
Groggy and lethargic from a night’s rest of sleeping pills, Jake’s mother ambled to her computer chair—as she always does—not wanting to wake her son. After a few years of precarious living, the mother wanted Jake to feel rested and at home in her apartment.
It took much longer than anybody would want to willingly sit in a room, scanning Facebook, waiting for their dead son to awaken.
“I couldn’t hear breathing, no snoring; he couldn’t move,” she said. “Then I looked and he was blue. And that was that. That was the last time I ever saw him.”
Jake moved to Kelowna after struggling to find his way in northern Ontario, where the mother and son are native to. His mother moved to Kelowna in 2014 and he visited for four months in 2015 to see if the area could help him move past his struggles.
His mom sent him back to Ontario for rehab and counselling. He wanted to get his life back on track. When he was ready, he came back to Kelowna to get a job, find stable housing and move forward. His mother even made him turn himself into police for a prior drug offence.
“He was doing all the right things,” she said. “He was really a nice kid, he just had his struggles.”
She doesn’t know how he got the money to buy drugs nor does she know where he consumed them and she doesn’t know where he got them from, but Jake’s blood stream was ridden with various types of drugs that caused an overdose, according to what officials told her.
Jake, according to his mother, was an amazing kid. He was a musician, smart, funny, caring and gentle. She emphasized that the only downfall was that he had his struggles, as many do.
Gretchen Delguidice was a supporter in Wawa, Ont., and helped guide Jake in the months before he moved to Kelowna to rejoin his mother. She was so inspired by his commitment to healing and helping his friends, that when he passed, she wanted to honour him.
“Jake was just the most lovable person,” said Delguidice. “I lost that kid and it was a tough one for me.”
In 2019, presented by Jacquie Langille (Jake’s grandmother) and Delguidice, the Make a Difference Award was priviledged to two Grade 8 students—one boy and one girl—who exemplify kindness and empathy to their peers and their community.
“They make a difference by being just a little different (in a good way),” the document reads.
“It’s pretty cool, I’m honoured and he would’ve loved it, too,” the mother said. “Especially because it’s for the underdogs.”
The award will be made annual and Delguidice is attempting to create two more awards for Grade 12 graduating students.
The Facebook post by Jake’s mother garnered replies that read, “Wow… I love this award!”, “Beautiful—brings tears to my eyes”, “I so love this… what an amazing legacy… and so needed. Beautiful” and “I’m at a loss for words, but this truly touched my spirit.”
Through Jake’s story, his mother wishes for people to understand the opioid crisis, drug addiction and homelessness, although they often correlate, they don’t always bind a person to one stereotype. Jake did not die on the streets. He died on his mother’s air mattress one dreary, often re-lived morning.
“They are trying to do the best they can,” his mother empathized with others who struggle in secret.
“They are empaths, the free spirits, the grey in a world of black and white,” the document concluded. “These students challenge us to look at life and people differently.”