The community gathered on Friday morning to pray for and support those in leadership as part of the 2016 Sylvan Lake Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast.
Those in attendance prayed for members of government, judicial and peace officers, emergency medical personnel, fire fighters, education systems, local businesses, marriages, families, churches, their leaders and local youth.
Mayor of Sylvan Lake and guest of honour, Sean McIntyre was brought to tears by the level of support shown during the breakfast.
“I expect things to be hard so when they go really well, like a room full of people being there to pray for and support you, the tears flow,” said Mayor McIntyre. “You’re all so wonderful and so supportive that it wraps the scale around from a tremendous honour to tremendously humbling.”
In addition to thanking the community, Mayor McIntyre also sent out a special thank you to his wife, Leah McIntyre.
“Thank you for giving me the love and support to be able to do what I do. Not everyone knows the toll public service takes on a family, but it’s big,” said Mayor McIntyre. “My wife is my treasure. I am grateful for you and I love you.”
In addition to the community gathering to celebrate the accomplishments of 2016, those in attendance were blessed with the opportunity to listen to special guest speakers, Roger and Bonita Bott who lost their three daughters Catie, Dara and Jana in a farming accident last October near Withrow.
The Botts were introduced by a long time friend, neighbour and Town of Sylvan Lake Director of Public Works, Dave Brand. During his introduction of the Botts, Brand spoke on how he first met the family in 2006 when he purchased farm land just up the road.
“The thing you learn really quickly about the Bott’s is how important family is to them,” said Brand during the introduction. “To Roger and Bonita, it doesn’t really matter who are or where you came from, what matters is the content of your soul.”
Brand went on to say that he did not intend to give a chronology of the accomplishments of the Botts during the introduction, as their greatest accomplishments could easily be seen in the strong, independent and caring nature of their three girls, as well as in the legacy of lasting love and enduring strength that encapsulates Roger, Bonita and their son Caleb.
“Ultimately, a community is really just a family and there is no one more suited to demonstrate that than Roger and Bonita Bott,” he added.
Roger and Bonita spoke on the role their faith, family and community played in the past year following the accident.
”Everyone has their own story they are going through and this is ours,” said Roger. “We hope we can give you a few things this morning that can encourage you and help you live your story out loud.”
The Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast fell 13 days before the one year anniversary of the day their lives changed forever.
“We think about that often – the day our lives changed forever,” said Roger. “I can’t believe it’s been a year. Where does a year go so quickly? We think about Catie, Jana and Dara many times every day.”
He added that as they work to bring in this year’s harvest, they are continuously reminded of their girls as they truly did everything together as a family.
Roger explained the family’s faith has been instrumental in helping them to get through this tragedy. He added he believes it is their faith that helps them to walk through life following the accident.
“God is one of the things that has helped us get through this,” he explained. “I truly believe that God built us and created us to be in relationship with one another and with him. I believe we have to have that living relationship with God. I believe that has been key in helping us get through this.”
“Probably the biggest comfort I have had is that as a Christian and with our girls being Christian that I will get to see them again one day. That is the biggest thing that carries me is that I will get to walk up to them and see them again one day – that’s what we believe.”
He explained that without that belief he is unsure how anyone would be able to walk through the darkness of such a loss.
Bonita went on to speak on the importance of family. She detailed how she and Roger spent nine years trying to have children.
“That’s a whole other story in itself,” said Bonita. “After trying and trying, going to doctors – all of a sudden, boom – we’ve got four kids in three years so things got pretty intense. Even at that time there was so much community and family that gathered around us.”
Bonita acknowledged both her and Roger’s immediate family who she said helped immensely last fall, explaining the practical help they received such as house work, yard work and farm work was truly a blessing.
Another blessing mentioned by Bonita was the decision to home school their children. She recalled the day the school bus came to pick the children up for Caleb, their youngest child’s first day of school.
“I watched that bus carry away my four kids away from me and I thought that maybe that wasn’t really what I wanted,” said Bonita who added even from their oldest daughter Catie’s first day of Kindergarten she implored her mother to home school them. “They spent their most prime hours of the day not with us and we didn’t like that. So we made the decision to home school. It intensified the intensity of our home, but we were doing it together and we were working through it together.”
She added she knew if they didn’t at least try homeschooling, she would regret it.
“I’m so thankful for that, because if I didn’t home school them and I didn’t gather my kids around me how much would I have regretted that now,” said Bonita. “So I am very, very thankful for that time and those memories. We are very thankful for our family, church family, extended family and everyone who has come around us to support us.”
Roger then touched on what community means to them.
“When our accident happened, our community came in around us,” said Roger. “It was overwhelming and unexpected to see the enormity of everything that happened and the help we received from the community. It’s been important for us to be involved in our community, our church, other communities, other churches and some of the first people to reach out to us after our accident were other churches and our church.”
He added in addition to the churches, local farmers were there the next day to finish their harvest. Roger explained the group had the harvest done in a couple of hours. He also thanked the local Hutterite colony for the meals they brought to the Bott’s in the days following the accident.
“You never know when you will be on either end of this conversation – when you will be involved in other people’s lives or when you will need your community to be there and be involved in your life,” said Roger. “We saw that very visibly when our accident happened, how loving of a community we are in. They care. You guys care. Our community cares and we thank you for that.”
Roger and Bonita finished their speech by quoting a verse from the Bible.
“Proverbs 28:10 says ‘Better is a neighbour nearby than a brother far away,’” said Roger. “Our family is great. We need our family around us, but when your family is a a thousand miles away, who will be there for you? Your neighbours, your friends, your community.”
“We can’t do this thing we call life alone. God created us to do it in relationship together.”