Helen Jennens’ urn that holds the ashes of her two dead sons. (Contributed)

Okanagan mom misses two sons killed by opioids

‘I’m always very aware of 11 o’clock’

There is a motorcycle helmet, fishing ties, pictures, letters and a pinch of ashes in Rian Leinweber cairn.

There would be more ashes, but his mother, Helen Jennens, said she is a bit greedy when it comes to her dead son’s ashes.

In her bedroom, she has a beautiful metal urn shaped like an infinity symbol that a family member made for her.

It’s so heavy she can hardly move it.

Rian’s memorial stone is at his family’s cottage on Kootenay Lake. Every year on Aug. 21, his family drives to the cottage to visit him.

His stone overlooks the bay and Jennens said it’s almost as if he can see them coming.

Things don’t change, the mother said. She will go to his stone, she will say a few words, she will listen to others say a few words and then she will reflect.

She will remember how eight years ago, she stood in almost the exact same spot with plans to meet her son the following morning.

“I can go back to that day in 2011 and think about what I was doing on that day.”

Jennens packed food to bring to Rian’s house in 2011. He had recently been in a motorvehicle accident and mobility was a struggle.

READ MORE: Kelowna mothers to share grief, spread awareness for overdose day

As she pulled in the driveway of her son’s house, she noticed his waist-high living room window was open.

She could see his keys, wallet and phone sitting just beyond the windowsill on a desk in his house.

Her son wouldn’t be that ignorant, she said, as someone could steal them.

“I could tell from the doorway that he was not alive,” she said.

Rian must have been reading on his laptop the night before when he fell asleep.

The bed propped him up, as if he were sitting in a chair, his computer still on his lap.

Her other son, Tyler, arrived at the house before anyone else. There, the two waited for the police to arrive.

READ MORE: Two sons lost to the opioid crisis, a mother calls for change

The coroner said 37-year-old Rian died at 11 p.m. on Aug. 21, 2011, from a lethal mix in prescription drugs, some of which were prescribed after the accident.

“I’m always very aware of 11 o’clock,” his mother said.

Tyler died five years later in January 2016 after battling a heroin addiction.

Jennens said Tyler fell so hard when he overdosed on fentanyl he split his head open in the bathroom.

A stone mason by trade, Tyler constructed a stone wall at the family cottage. His memorial stone is implanted in the wall.

“When Tyler was at his sickest with heroin use, and when he was most down and feeling defeated, he would say to me, ‘Mom, just put me in with my brother,’” she said.

Jennens said the brothers were always close growing up. They were only born 18 months apart.

“So…I did.”

And so, back in her bedroom, is her beautiful metal urn shaped like an infinity symbol. Engraved are the names of her two sons Rian and Tyler Leinweber.



David Venn
Reporter, Kelowna Capital News
Email me at david.venn@kelownacapnews.com
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