It’s an ordinary electric guitar, a Fender Stratocaster in black.
It’s also a powerful symbol of solace for an Edmonton woman who lost both of her brothers to overdoses on the same night, just two weeks ago.
Running her fingers along the frets, Kimberley Kemmer finds comfort for her still-raw grief.
Mason and Dean Kemmer, 31 and 29, were found dead on May 6 inside their shared Edmonton apartment.
The brothers had overdosed on opioids. Autopsy results may take months but their 33-year-old sister believes they were poisoned by fentanyl-laced street drugs.
“I can’t even really speculate what caused them to imbibe that day, but unfortunately, it was a tragic mistake,” Kemmer said.
‘Full of life’
Mason and Dean were inseparable. Both had day jobs as insulators, but they lived and breathed music.
“My brothers were probably the most eccentric people in Edmonton,” Kemmer said.
“Really, really tall. Always wore tie-dye head to toe. Extremely loud, just full of life. They just brought hilarity wherever they went. They were also extremely multi-talented musicians.
“Everything in their life was about the music.”
Dean was passionate about music production and often DJ’ed for his friends. When he wasn’t working on producing new electronic songs, he would sometimes pick up the accordion, Kemmer said.
Mason was an accomplished guitarist and had recently learned to play jazz piano.
The brothers also shared a decade-long battle with addiction.
Kemmer said Mason and Dean kept the extent of their drug use well hidden from the family.
“When someone is in recovery, you sometimes let your guard down and allow yourself to believe you’re in this new paradigm where they’re well,” she said.
It had been a difficult year for her brothers, Kemmer said.
Both had lost their jobs during the pandemic. Mason had been taking Suboxone to ease his opioid withdrawal symptoms, but had stopped.
Even so, Kemmer said her brothers had been sober for at least eight months. She’s haunted by what may have caused their shared relapse.
It’s absolutely staggering the amount of sad stories that are out there.— Kimberley Kemmer
“I can only imagine that the four walls of the apartment closed in on them,” she said.
“Sometimes, I think, addiction speaks louder than logic and love.”
Kemmer said her grief soon turned to thoughts of Mason’s Stratocaster, which was sitting in a pawn shop somewhere in Edmonton.
Only weeks before he died, she and Mason had talked about the guitar. He wanted her to buy it back for him, but she was saving up for one of her own.
After her brothers died, she was desperate to get the instrument back but had no idea where it was. She posted on social media and called pawn shops around the city in an attempt to track it down.
Ultimately, with help from Edmonton police, the guitar was found and given to her, free of charge.
Kemmer and her brothers had always dreamed of starting their own band.
She’s now playing the Stratocaster every day, as a way to honour their memory.
“My brothers aren’t here any longer to work on their music,” she said. “I’m just simply going to have to carry that on for them.”
Kemmer said her search for Mason’s guitar put her in contact with dozens of other Albertans grieving loved ones lost to addiction.
Addiction, she said, doesn’t discriminate.
“My brothers had a lot of support and love in their lives, and they were good people, but they were just suffering from this scourge of addiction that is a lot stronger and a lot more painful than we can realize from the outside.
‘”It’s absolutely staggering the amount of sad stories that are out there that all seem to end in the exact same way.”