British Columbia

Travelling candlelight vigil honours overdose victims

There are 645 candles lit in the display to represent the people who have died from an overdose over a two year period in the Central Okanagan, Kamloops, Vernon and Penticton.

'Many people continue to die and we want to bring attention to it'

Jordan Bell died from a drug overdose at age 23, leaving behind a young daughter. 'She'll never see him again. She'll never know him,' said his cousin Jenna Jorde. (Jaimie Kehler/CBC)

Interior Health is bringing attention to the ongoing overdose crisis with a travelling candlelight display. 

There are 645 candles lit in the vigil to represent the people who have died from an overdose from January 2016 to December 2018 in the Central Okanagan, Kamloops, Vernon and Penticton.

"The idea [came from] myself and another colleague who were really feeling like the attention to the overdose crisis might be fading," said Corinne Dolman, regional lead for the overdose response for Interior Health. 

"We really wanted something that was visual that would really remind people that this overdose crisis is still really in effect. Many people [continue] to die and we want to bring attention to it."

Photos and messages 

People who come to the vigil are invited to interact with it by leaving messages and photos of loved ones who have died from an overdose, Dolman told Daybreak South's Jaimie Kehler.

At the Kelowna display, one person left a message that said "Blessed be. They're in a better world." 

Interior Health has held candlelight vigils for those who have died from an overdose in Penticton and Kelowna. The next vigils will be held in Vernon and Kamloops. (Jaimie Kehler/CBC)

Another tells the story of a mom whose son died from an overdose. The message explains that she loves him and knows he tried, but could not overcome the addiction after four years in jail.

"For me, it's heartbreaking, because I just think that there's more that we could be doing to stop the deaths," said Dolman. "The number of people that are dying is really a result of a contaminated drug supply."

'It's beautiful, but it's sad,' says observer

Jenna Jorde is a health unit aide at Interior Health. It was emotional for her to see a picture of her 23-year-old cousin, Jordan Bell, in the display.

She thinks a friend of his put it there.

"It's really a mix of emotions ... it's beautiful, but it's sad," said Jorde.

'You see all these people [and the] bright futures they could have had and it was gone in one night,' said Jenna Jorde, pictured. (Jaimie Kehler/CBC)

It was a bit of a shock when Bell, who has a young daughter, died a few years ago, she said. 

"If you look at some of these pictures [they're] like people you would know," said Jorde.

"There is still a stigma of who even recreationally uses and then you see even a lot of young people here. [At] any age, it's devastating."

'Hole in your heart'

The death of her cousin has been tough for Jorde's family.

"It really opened a lot of old wounds, because we lost his mom too before then," said Jorde.

"I've had other family members die of addiction. I think anytime with addiction or overdose you always think, 'what could I have done?'"

She hopes people will become more aware of overdose deaths, use more safely and have naloxone kits present. 

"I just really feel for the friends and family ... and the supporters that have lost these people, because it [leaves] you with a hole in your heart that you're trying to move on and fill, and it feels sometimes like a never ending pit."

Interior Health's next candlelight vigils will be held in Vernon and Kamloops.

With files from Jaimie Kehler and Daybreak South


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