The last thing I remember my mom telling me was that she was having a bad headache and she wasn’t strong enough to shovel the snow.
I said, “Mommy, go rest don’t worry about the snow right now.” All I was thinking was, if only I could get home and do it for her. Before we hung up the phone I made her promise me that she would not go out and shovel...only to find out that she did.
On Thursday March 3 2016, I received news that my mother was in hospital and unable to speak. I broke down in tears. The guy, who was always known for being tough, was in a tremendous amount of pain. After hearing the news of my mother being in the hospital, after just speaking to her the day before, I was broken.
Throughout my life, it’s always been my mother and me.
Through the many sicknesses to nearly dying from asthma attacks as a baby, she has ALWAYS been the person to comfort and support me when I needed it. Nothing stopped her and she was tough and loving at the same time. She was my superwoman; someone who could do everything.
When my sister finally called with the news, my family was outraged. My parents, being protective people, had asked everyone in the family to keep quiet because they wanted me to focus on the NCAA Indoor National Championships.
She had already been in the hospital for two days.
‘I need to be with my mother’
My coach Simon said “they did it to try to protect you, Brendon.” And I replied “I don’t care about track, that’s my mother. I need to go be with my mother.”
When I finally was able to speak to my mom, I was dealt the biggest shock of my life. She didn’t sound like herself. Her speech was slurred and she was unable to get many of her words out. I remember telling her everything is going to be alright and telling her that I love her. But all she kept saying was, “I am OK. Go run, Bren. Go run.”
She persuaded me to go to our spring break trip to Myrtle Beach, S.C., but then I received a call saying they needed me to come back home to Toronto. My mother had a brain aneurysm and they weren’t sure if she was going to make it.
I took the first flight home and went straight to the hospital. As I walked into St. Michael’s Hospital I strutted through the halls with a big smile, but deep down inside my heart was broken.
Just being able to stay by my mother’s side was great for me as we waited for the surgery to happen. The doctors told us this would be a dangerous procedure as the aneurysm was on her cerebellum (the part of the brain at the back of the skull), and at any time it could begin bleeding again and she could die.
My mom kept asking me when I would be leaving to go run my race in Alabama. I told her I wasn’t going to leave her for track and field because there was nothing more important to me than her. On the night before her surgery, my family convinced me to go to the meet, so I purchased my ticket to fly to nationals the day after her surgery. When her surgery was postponed I didn’t want to go but I promised my mother that I would go and compete and have fun for her.
Closer to God
I went in and told her that I loved her and that I would see her when she got out of surgery, even though I knew I wouldn’t. I felt that she needed comfort, and I gave her the comfort she needed and always gave me.
The whole time I was on the plane I prayed, knowing I was so high in the sky, and that much closer God. This way he would better hear my prayers.
When I landed I got the good news that the surgery went well. I was so happy. That night I was named regional athlete of the year and received my award, happy knowing that the person I cherished most was alive.
I spoke to her the morning before my race and she said, “I made it Bren, even though I can’t walk, go out there and run for both of us.” She said that she did her best, and reminded me to always do my best.
I went out there and did the very best that I could. With a very heavy heart, I crossed the finish line at indoor nationals and came in fourth. All things considered, it was the best race ever, and I felt as if I had just finished first. I was so happy and excited that I was even able to get there in time to run considering what I had gone through.
The month of May came, and it was time for me to graduate with my master’s degree. But I didn’t attend the ceremony. I wanted my mother there with me, and because she was unable to attend it was pointless for me to attend. So I did not go, but nonetheless I know that she was still proud of me. My focus shifted and the goal was to win NCAA Outdoor Nationals in Oregon. I stepped on the track and even with my best effort I came up short. I did not win, but I did finish third in the 200 metres. And as always, my mother was very proud of me and all my accomplishments, just like she has always been. Throughout the years, as I graduated from high school, undergrad, as well as grad school, she was proud.
I made it home to see my mom before I left for the Canadian trials that would cement my place on the Olympic team. She had been progressing very well since the surgery. We stayed up late talking and joking and she said, “Who knew this asthmatic child would be able to run so fast? I’m proud of you Bren. Now go run like I’m chasing you with my slipper.”
Not only do I race for myself but I dedicate all of my races to my superwoman, to my mom, whose words are always “good luck and I love you Bren.” These words stick with me. Even when I run, I remember the advice that she gives. I often sit back and think about all of the hardships that we have faced. Whether I win or lose, I will always give my best, and I am going to be happy because I still have my mother around.