Editor’s Note: This story is about suicide.
When Thomas Ambrose of Cowichan started cycling, he did it mostly for fun and to get a little more exercise. Now sport has a much broader meaning for him. This helps him heal his broken heart.
Prior to December 2021, Ambrose was planning a bike trip from Duncan to Tofino in April 2022 as part of his training for the Tour de Victoria which he had planned to participate in for the second time. His daughter Edie Ambrose, 15, had agreed to go on the “huge” training ride with him and he had bought her a new bike for the trip. The ride had been planned for a long time and was to be the first of many rides with her daughter.
Edie Ambrose committed suicide on December 3.
So, instead of canceling, Ambrose moved on, with the support of friends, family and the community.
“We continued the ride, but now in memory of her,” Ambrose said.
“We decided it would be annual,” he added. “Wish You Were Here – Edie Ambrose Ride for Suicide Awareness.”
At 4:30 a.m. on April 23, Ambrose got on his bike at Duncan and began pedaling.
At 6 a.m. he was in Stz’uminus territory at Oyster Bay. By 8:30 a.m., he had checked in to Snaw-naw-as (Nanoose).
At each stop, he was supported by friends, family and the local First Nations community.
Ambrose arrived at Cathedral Grove around 12:30 p.m.
He said the hardest part was when he felt he couldn’t ride anymore.
“I bought an upgrade to make my bike go faster, but it hurt in the hills,” he explained. “I thought and prayed my daughter.”
“It was crazy,” he added. “It was at the same time that I felt like I couldn’t do it anymore, I looked up and in the sky there was a cloud in the shape of a face.”
His wife Clare had taken a picture at that precise moment.
“I cried afterwards when my wife showed me,” he said. “In my head, I said ‘it was Edie’.”
Ambrose had felt his daughter’s presence when he needed her most. It gave him the strength he needed to keep going.
By 6 p.m., Ambrose was at the Ucluelet-Tofino junction.
It wasn’t long before the members of the Tla-o–The Who-aht First Nation met Ambrose and his support group at the entrance to the Tofino airport and escorted the runners the remaining mile to the Tla-o–entrance to the who-aht territory.
From there it was on the Tla-o–qui-aht community of Esowista (Long Beach area) where residents greeted and encouraged riders and celebrated with prayers, songs, dances and a traditional feast. During the event, stories were told and lessons were taught by elders.
After a grueling day of peddling, supported by his team, Ambrose finally landed in Esowista at 7:19 p.m.
“The chief of the Tla-o–The qui-aht First Nation talked about suicide awareness and how it should be noticed more,” he said. “Many family and friends have gone through extremely difficult times following the loss to suicide, and that needs to be heard. We love you. We are here. Help each other.
If you are feeling in crisis or contemplating suicide, please call BC Crisis Center suicide hotline at 1-800-784-2433.