For Timmothy Lezard and Sherry Ward, emotions are still raw as they come to grips with their son’s death nearly three months prior.
Aaron Lezard, 22, died June 6 from a fentanyl overdose.
“I feel disassociated from the experience, like it just isn’t real,” said Ward. “I have a thought and then think ‘Oh, I won’t see him again.’”
According to the BC Coroners Service, there were 134 suspected drug overdose deaths in July 2018. This is a 25 per cent increase over the number of deaths in June 2018.
The report also states the rates of illicit drug overdose deaths are highest in Vancouver, Northern Interior, Okanagan, Thomson Cariboo, and Northeast Health Services Delivery Areas.
“In the last three to six months, our staff have reported on 22 ‘close calls,’ drug overdoses not resulting in deaths,” said Denise Lecoy, mental health and wellness lead for the Penticton Indian Band. “We don’t necessarily hear every single thing that happens, but we’re doing our best to build those trusting relationships so that we can support all of our families who are going through this struggle.”
Aug. 31 is International Overdose Awareness Day, recognized with a purple ribbon, and Ward and Lezard are using this opportunity to warn others about how this type of tragedy can affect an entire family. Aaron’s death came as a devastating shock for his parents.
“I didn’t know my son was using cocaine and if I had, I would have told him there’s things in these drugs now that aren’t good,” said Ward. “There are no safe drugs.”
Lezard said the best thing parents can do is have open conversations with their kids.
“Confront them and tell them you love them. It’s a gamble every time and not a good gamble,” said Lezard. “Is it worth it to lose your life?”
Lezard and Ward said their son was respectful, funny and sensitive. He was also an avid hunter and fisher. They hope that no other family or parents have to go through what they’ve been through the last few months.
“When you find out, you find out after the fact — when he’s in your living room and they’re doing CPR and have the AED on him, you’re watching your son right there,” said Lezard through tears. “It was hard to watch, because you know if it doesn’t work, that’s it.”
Ward said her other children have been largely affected by their brother’s death as well. His sister Halle and brother Quinton were home at the time of Aaron’s overdose.
“On that morning, my daughter Halle came to my room at about 6:30 a.m. and said Aaron is unresponsive on the floor in the living room. I got up and ran out there, I told her to call 911,” said Ward, also in tears. “She did compressions until she got tired, and then my other son Quinton took over.”
Both Ward and Lezard agree it ‘still doesn’t feel real’ as they continue to grieve and remember their son.
The family has set up a memorial on Lezard’s front lawn to honour Aaron’s life. The memorial faces due east and is made out of soap stone and other gathered material, with a plaque donated.
Those wishing to show their support for International Overdose Awareness Day on Aug. 31 are asked to wear a purple ribbon. Lezard and Ward will be hosting a wiener roast at 171 West Hills Cres. on Aug. 31 starting at 5 p.m. for anyone who wishes to attend.
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Jordyn Thomson | Reporter
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