Editor’s note: This story discusses suicide.
When Cowichan’s Thomas Ambrose began cycling, he did it mostly for fun and to get a little more exercise. Now, the sport holds a much larger meaning for him. It’s helping him to heal his broken heart.
Before December 2021, Ambrose was planning a cycling trip from Duncan all the way to Tofino, in April 2022, as part of his training for the Tour de Victoria which he’d planned to enter for the second time. His daughter Edie Ambrose, 15, had agreed to make the “huge” training ride with him and he’d bought her a new bike for the trip. The ride had been scheduled for a long time and it was meant to be the first of many rides with his daughter.
Edie Ambrose died by suicide on Dec. 3.
So, instead of cancelling, Ambrose pushed 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. “The Wish You Were Here — Edie Ambrose Ride for Suicide Awareness.”
At 4:30 a.m. April 23, Ambrose got on his bike in Duncan and started pedalling.
By 6 a.m. he was in Stz’uminus territory in Oyster Bay. At 8:30 a.m. he’d checked in at Snaw-naw-as (Nanoose).
At every stop he was supported by friends, family and the local First Nations community.
Ambrose made it to 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 for my bike to go faster but it hurt on hills,” he explained. “I thought and prayed to my daughter.”
“It was crazy,” he added. “It was the same time I felt like I couldn’t do it anymore, I looked and in the sky was a cloud shaped like a face.”
His wife Clare had snapped a photo at that exact time.
“I cried after when my wife showed me,” he said. “In my mind I said ‘that was Edie’.”
Ambrose had felt his daughter’s presence when he needed it most. It gave him the strength he needed to push on.
By 6 p.m. Ambrose was at the Ucluelet-Tofino Junction.
It wasn’t long before members of the Tla-o–qui-aht First Nation met Ambrose and his support group at the Tofino airport entrance and escorted the riders the remaining one kilometre to the Tla-o–qui-aht territory entrance.
From there it was on to the Tla-o–qui-aht community of Esowista (Long Beach area) where residents greeted and cheered for the riders and celebrated with prayers, songs, dances and a traditional feast. During the event stories were told and lessons were taught by the elders.
After a day of gruelling peddling, supported by his team, Ambrose finally landed at Esowista at 7:19 p.m.
“The Chief of the Tla-o–qui-aht First Nation spoke about suicide awareness and that it should be noticed more,” he said. “A lot of family and friends have been through extremely hard times at the loss to suicide, and it needs to be heard. We love you. We are here. Help one another.”
If you feel like you are in crisis or are considering suicide, please call the Crisis Centre BC suicide hotline at 1-800-784-2433.
Other resources include: Canada Suicide Prevention Service at Toll free: 1-833-456-4566. You can also text 45645 or visit the online chat service at crisisservicescanada.ca