What was a tough trip emotionally for Sylvia Sienikehä Elysiana alone with her two toddlers, driving all the way from the east coast back to her home in B.C., it got downright frightful when as she was reaching the Alta./Saskatchewan border.
Elysiana partner’s father was gravely ill, so he and his ten year old daughter had driven out to the east coast to pay their last respects while he was in palliative care. After an extended stay, when her partner decided he wanted to stay out there longer, she was driving back to B.C. with her children. Her partner and his daughter flew back later.
They were just outside of Maple Creek when her vehicle broke down at the most untimely of situations. That’s where the compassionate spirit of Maple Creek and Saskatchewan took over.
Elysiana, who is a holistic therapist and death doula in B.C., constantly faces emotional and tragic situations, was overwhelmed with pure kindness.
“No issues, filled up with gas and then I was getting up to highway speeds getting to 80 km and my van broke down,” she recalls of her earlier summer trip. “Travelling across country, in itself… is kind of a gong show and you throw two toddlers and a dog into the mix and it gets to be pretty crazy and chaotic. Pulling ten-hour drives every day can be a bit stressful. I heard the pop and then my whole van kinda collapsed on the side.”
It was not a flat tire so it was even scarier not knowing what the problem was. It turned out to be a costly ball joint. She calmed herself down and called the number of her local automobile association. Within five minutes of her pulling over to the shoulder a car pulled up in front of her.
“This beautiful man named Richard Mosquito hops out while I was on the phone with the tow truck service, they were trying to arrange for something there,” explains Elysiana. “(Mosquito) says 'don’t worry about that, I’ve got a friend just ten minutes back where you came from in Maple Creek and we will sort you out.'”
She got off the phone with the B.C. company who said they would reimburse her, Mosquito’s friend from Maple Creek Towing shows up within 10 minutes, tows her back. She says Mosquito's friend didn’t charge her for the tow. It was the August long weekend, the mechanic wasn’t going to be back for a few days. She initially camped out at the mechanics’ shop parking lot. Cue more southwest Sask. kindness and compassion.
“During those two days, we just walked into town and we were just inundated by the most amazing people I have ever met on my 39 years on this planet. They were so gracious, so helpful and so kind and it was the type of generosity I have never experienced before,” she says.
One woman came up to her and asked Elysiana’s story and situation and insisted she take $100 and a number to call if she needed anything.
“I originally said ‘no’ but she insisted (so she gratefully accepted it),” she explains with much emotion. “She then pulls up to my van the following morning, gave me an additional $300, plus she had notified Major Ed (Dean) from the Salvation Army. Most amazing man I ever met, him and his buddy showed up. They came with a case of water for my dog, juice boxes for the kids, he said 'don’t worry about anything, we got you covered.' This makes me teary talking about this honestly. ...And while 'they are working on your van we are going to set you up in a motel for however many nights you need. And they did. In town, the Round Up (Food Bar) Cafe, there was another lovely woman gave me two $50 bills and asked if I would take it for the kids. The other woman from the Round Up the owner gave my kids free pancakes; the owner of Jimmy’s Kitchen attached to the Maple Creek Inn where we stayed, beautiful smiling man had the most gentle energy ever, gave my kids free fries…long story short, it was a remarkable four or five days.”
Dean has seen situations with stranded drivers before during his 15 years with Maple Creek. However, this one was different.
"What made this one in particular more concerning was that she had two little people with her so that makes it a little more pressing," explains Dean acknowledging the intense pressure on a family in this situation.
It was a surprise for Elysiana of the level of humanity of Maple Creek. She wasn’t too familiar with Saskatchewan let alone Maple Creek, but she says the moment that Mosquito had stopped and showed genuine concern and empathy for her plight, she felt better.
“I felt the most beautiful energy coming off of Mr. Mosquito and I knew he was there to help, and he made sure the van was (towed) and that we would be safe,” she explains. “From the moment (Mosquito) stopped to the moment Ed filled our tank, I was just crying tears of gratitude the whole time I was there. They wouldn’t accept anything from me. They were offering to give us rides to the park…it was just mind-blowing. When everything got fixed Dean ensured the mechanics bill was covered and filled Elysiana's tank with gas.
Dean says the service staff at Murray Chev Olds deserve a lot of credit working over time and extra hard on a not-so-simple mechanical issue with a full day of work after a long weekend back. Dean says Murray's staff partnered with the Salvation Army to ensure she got on the road as quickly and as safely as possible. She made it back to her B.C. home.
Dean is very proud of his community.
"Maple Creek is a very caring community and in situations like this, we are going to step up and help someone in need and she was definitely someone in need at that moment," explains Dean who thankful he was notified of Elysiana's situation. "In a smaller community, people are going to reach out when they can...I can't even imagine, she lived her van from the Saturday til the Sunday I was notified. To be able to reach into her life is something she will never forget. She knows there are people who care... she came into a community that cares all the time."
It was the worst time for Elysiana which turned out to be one of the best.
“This has completely, 100 per cent restored my faith in humanity,” she says. “I’ve always tried to do good (with her profession) I am a death doula, I have been focused on end of life care and hospice, I also feel this innate propensity to give to others. It is quite rare to encounter that (back)...to feel this in abundance by an entire community was just astounding. It definitely restored my faith in humanity because it is such a rare, unfortunate thing to experience kindness from strangers, neighbours, community…this was genuine. This was literally the most genuine, heartfelt, spirited, just for the sake of helping another human being thing. A traveller passing through, not even from Saskatchewan, it made me want to do so much good in the world and give back to them. When I told my sister about this, I don’t have social media, she didn’t expect the response about this news. I want this town to be acknowledged. I want this town to be seen and heard and blessed, I really do. They deserve it.”