Grade 3 class sends love, drawings and lobster dinner to Nunavut couple married in hospital

Jasmine Marianayagam and her Grade 3 students at Yellowknife's École Įtłʼǫ̀. (Hilary Bird/CBC - image credit)
Jasmine Marianayagam and her Grade 3 students at Yellowknife's École Įtłʼǫ̀. (Hilary Bird/CBC - image credit)

It's a love story that's touched a lot of people — including some Grade 3 students at École Įtłʼǫ̀ elementary school in Yellowknife.

When their teacher Jasmine Marianayagam first heard the story of a Nunavut couple who married in Yellowknife's Stanton Territorial Hospital last week, she knew she had to share it with her class.

The couple — Roy and Sylvia Klengenberg — have been together for years but decided to finally tie the knot last week while they still could. Roy is facing terminal cancer and may not have many more days ahead of him.

The Klengenbergs' wedding was a relatively simple affair in the hospital chapel, organized in a matter of hours with help from some friends and family.

"I knew that our class, like my students, would want to hear about it," Marianayagam said.

"They're old enough to understand ... relationships and love, [and] how it's more than just marriage — and that it just meant so much to Sylvia and Roy to be together, no matter what all the trials and tribulations they're going through."

Rita Pigalak
Rita Pigalak

The students' reaction was just what Marianayagam expected. They wanted to make cards and drawings for the Klengenbergs, wishing them love and happiness.

"I felt kinda sad for Roy, but I'm kinda happy that they got married in time because I know that Roy doesn't have much time to live," said Mattéo Larsson-Ayiku, who made a card.

"That story was very heart-touching, so I guess I just wanted to make some stuff for them."

Grace Fitzgerald said she felt a bit badly that the Klengenbergs couldn't have a fancier celebration.

"I went to a wedding once and they had nice white decorations and a fancy dinner. But [the Klengenbergs] didn't have much," she said.

Hilary Bird/CBC
Hilary Bird/CBC

Soleia Look drew a heart for the couple and wrote a message of congratulations.

"I feel that they're going to be really happy to have it, and I'm happy that I did it for them," she said.

Marianayagam says the students were particularly struck by the photos of the Klengenbergs' wedding.

"Specifically, the photo of Roy and Sylvia holding hands was a huge attraction for the students. They ended up, a lot of them in their cards, ended up recreating their hands being held together," Marianayagam said.

Hilary Bird/CBC
Hilary Bird/CBC

The students took some time with their drawings and pictures, she said. Some brought them home for the weekend to work on, or made rough drafts of what they wanted to create.

"It was really nice to see, because they knew how meaningful these drawings would be," Marianayagam said.

"A lot of them have seen hospital rooms and they understand it's not a very colourful, vibrant environment and they wanted to add colour and vibrant visuals for Roy and Sylvia, especially during these heartbreaking moments of their life, and to kind of give Roy some extra encouragement from kids that he hasn't met or might not meet."

The students were also touched by the idea that the Klengenbergs wanted to have a nice steak-and-lobster dinner to celebrate their marriage. The class arranged for that takeout dinner to be sent to the hospital, paid for by Marianayagam.

Marianayagam — who is herself engaged — is pleased that the Klengenbergs' story meant something to her students because "it speaks to what a marriage really is."

"It's not about the decorations and the price tag that people might put on a wedding, but it's about the love and the relationship and you know, in sickness and in health."