Just over a year ago on Friday July 5, 2019, 22-year-old Madison Stephan was killed in a motor vehicle accident, sending shockwaves through her small community.
Stephan was in the vehicle with her boyfriend Hayden Boyle when they collided with a westbound semi at the intersection of Highway 13 and secondary Highway 814 on the northeastern edge of Wetaskiwin.
Madison, who had plans to come a teacher, died at the scene.
Madison’s family still struggles to face a reality without Madi (as everyone who knew her called her).
“When people ask us how we are doing I always just say ‘we’re hanging in there’,” says Madi’s father Troy Stephan. “Just trying to take it day by day.”
Something that helps Madi’s family with their grieving is to honour Madi through the #LiveLikeMadi campaign.
Madi’s mother, Shannon Stephan, came up with the idea shortly after Madi’s passing as a way to help spread the joy and positivity that her daughter brought into the world, and the mottos that they know she lived by.
Madi’s mottos to live by include:
• Show kindness and love to others;
• Celebrate life and live in the moment;
• Make time and be a shining light to loved ones;
• Be grateful and enjoy the little things;
• Love yourself;
• Accept others for themselves, we are all unique;
• Smile, laugh, and uplift where you can.
Shannon has made it her goal to complete monthly Madi Missions, which she shares on the #LiveLikeMadi Facebook page, to honour Madi’s memory and live by Madi’s Mottos.
One Madi Mission was to go donate blood, as Shannon said Madi was an avid blood donor. Anybody who donated blood that month and posted a picture of them donating to the Facebook page would be entered into that months #LiveLikeMadi draw. In conjunction with Madi Missions, Shannon and Troy would hold draws related to the mission of the month to encourage those on the page to live more like Madi and challenge themselves to do good in the world.
Part of these draws included #LiveLikeMadi apparel. On all the apparel is one of Madi’s hearts that her family said she doodled everywhere. In addition to winning apparel, people can purchase it from the #LiveLikeMadi Facebook page and part of the proceeds go back into the community or to causes that the Stephans know Madi would have loved to donate to.
In March Shannon made one of her Madi Missions to create love rocks. She would paint the rocks with hearts and spread them throughout the community, even distributing them to family in other provinces to help place around as well.
Signs from above
Shannon says the objective of the love rocks are to bring joy to those who see them, and a spark of fun as they pass them on.
Not only is Madi’s heart drawing on Shannon’s sleeve literally, but Shannon continues to see Madi’s heart in the unexpected. Hearts will pop up in puddles, in tree bark, in rips in her socks and more.
The Stephans often find dimes, something that Madi and Shannon talked about frequently.
“I would always find dimes and I would always talk to Madi about dimes,” Shannon says. “Madi was very spiritual and we would always talk about that too. I remember her telling me, ‘Mom want to know the weirdest thing? When I bought this car’, the car that she got in the accident with, ‘the cupholders were full of dimes.’”
After the accident Madi’s best friends would continuously find dimes, and with those dimes they created a sign for the Stephan’s home that read ‘dimes from heaven’ and created a heart.
Troy admits to being a bit of a skeptic, but was surprised on Father’s Day when he went to put on his work boots and a dime fell out.
“It seems like she’s sending us messages,” says Troy.
A community coming together for change
After the accident the community was vocal alongside the Stephans about making changes to the intersection that had been the scene of so many fatal accidents. Troy says that it was approximately a month after the accident that changes were implemented.
“The community really picked it up and demanded something be done there,” he says. A turning lane was put in at the intersection and a reduced speed limit to help reduce the risk to drivers and the likelihood of another serious accident.
“If that would have been there before, Madi would still be here with us.”
Since the changes to the intersection there hasn’t been another accident there.
Honouring Madi a year on
Madi loved many things. She was passionate about animals, travel, creating specialty drinks at Beans — such as the recipe for the now ‘Madi’s Coconut tea misto’, and being a mentor to youth in the community; however, one of her greatest loves was for her boyfriend Hayden.
“I always tell people he’s the son that Madi blessed us with,” says Shannon. “Hayden is part of the family.” Hayden and Madi met in New Zealand where he is from when she was travelling. Hayden currently still lives with the Stephans and plans on making Canada his home.
In July, the Stephans along with close friends and family had a campout in Madi’s memory, setting of fireworks during it to celebrate all the joy that Madi brought into their lives— similarly to how fireworks and celebrations made Madi happy.
“The outpouring of support has been actually kind of overwhelming,” Troy Stephan says. “It’s really helped us a lot to get through this best we can. We really appreciate that.”
The Stephans say that they continue to live their lives with loss day by day, but are inspired by those spreading love into the world around them, like their Madi did.