An Abbotsford mother mourning the loss of her son has turned her grief into something positive.
Tammy Peters’s son, Kaelen Paul-Peters, died of an accidental fentanyl overdose on Nov. 22. He was 21 years old.
Less than a month after his passing, Peters was on Gladys Avenue on Sunday to serve pizza and handing out clothing, blankets and other goods to roughly 40 homeless men and women. She said she had so many donations of items and cash from friends and family that there were leftovers.
Paul-Peters was himself homeless this past summer and many of the people who came to the event knew him, Peters said. At least one person who came for pizza learned of his friend’s death on Sunday, when he saw Peters holding a picture of him.
“He was just really upset,” Peters said. “Since he died, the number one thing people say about him is that he was kind.
“He really had a special way of getting along with people and showing respect no matter what,” Peters wrote in a tribute to her son. “He had a way about him that made others feel like they belonged. He was a man of honour and integrity.”
Paul-Peters dreamed of one day joining the military.
“He wanted to serve his country and make a real difference in the world,” Peters wrote.
But Paul-Peters struggled with addiction and a learning disability and was haunted by the death of his four-year-old sister, who died from a brain aneurysm when he was only eight years old.
“It affected him more than we knew but Kaelen could just never bring himself to talk to anybody about it, not even a counsellor,” Peters said. “It stayed bottled up for years.”
Peters said she, too, never properly grieved her daughter’s death, but after her son’s passing – her only other child – “it just seemed natural” to turn the devastating loss into positive action.
“I wanted to sort of honour him in that way because, although he was homeless, he actually really wanted to help the homeless.”
Peters said she also hoped her event would help raise awareness of lacking supports for homeless and addicted Abbotsford residents.
She said her son had tried many times to get clean and was only able to make those efforts with the help of a supportive family who drove him to appointments, made phone calls and helped him along the way.
“For somebody on the street, I’m not totally sure how they can do all that … People are just dying out there.”