It’s been a year ago since 45-year-old Preston Alexander Haskell passed away.
His mother, Jane Haskell, remembers that day vividly.
“It was the anniversary of his death in November,” Haskell said.
“We celebrated with a mass and then released balloons in his memory at the cemetery. Only, I couldn’t. I still can’t release him,” Haskell said.
It was a year ago on Nov. 8 that her son, Preston died of a fentanyl overdose in Fort St. James.
“I remember shopping at the market and all of the emergency vehicles went by,” Haskell recounts.
“Sirens were blaring everywhere and I knew I had to follow them,” Haskell said.
At that time, Preston resided with his sister-in-law.
“I cried to my other son, let’s go. They are going that way. When we got there, the vehicles were all there. People were crying and my sister-in-law said, Preston is gone,” Haskell said.
“It was like someone hit me really hard. I couldn’t stop crying.”
For Preston’s Aunt, Bernice Wilkes, memories of finding her nephew, inattentive and cold, slumped on a chair will haunt her always.
“Finding him was devastating,” Wilkes said. “He battled with addictions for a number of years but it was fentanyl that killed him in the end.”
Holding her son’s coroner’s report, Haskell remains devastated.
“I remember visiting Preston that same morning thinking he was just in a deep sleep. But he must have already been dead,” Haskell said.
“My brother-in-law said that Preston was shaking profusely the night before.”
For Haskell, the importance of raising awareness about the dangers of fentanyl is worth every tear as she holds close to her heart the many memories of her son.
A photo of Preston sits on a mantel next to a statue of the Virgin Mary. A candle stays lit, always.
“These are his baby muck lucks and a picture of my son. He was my first born,” Haskell said.
“This is so hard. This will be the second Christmas without him, “Haskell said.
“He was so talented. He was a qualified hairdresser. He loved to crochet and he was so excited to begin a program in the culinary arts in Jan. 2017. He was so excited,” Haskell said.
“And the community loved him. I was so overwhelmed at his potlatch. So many people came. It was so uplifting to see. Everyone knew that Preston helped everyone and loved cultural activities. Preston was all about his native pride.”
Despite a bright future ahead of him, Preston died of a fentanyl overdose. One single oxycontin pill, laced with fentanyl took his life.
The number of deaths from illicit drug overdoses remains at a significantly increased level from previous years.
Statistics show that fentanyl-detected deaths are now occurring regularly throughout the province.
“So many people are dying. If there is one person we can help out there, then it’s worth raising awareness. I wouldn’t wish this on anyone,” Haskell said.
Haskell visits Cottonwood Park and the cemetery in Fort St. James regularly.
“I pray for him constantly. I sit at his grave and just cry and cry,” Haskell says. “Now, I just try and keep busy looking after my kids, grand kids and my great granddaughter. She’s my little energy. I thank God for her.”
“I also hope and pray no one ever loses a loved one like this. It’s too heart breaking,” Haskell said.
“I miss my son so much.”