Sara MacDonald’s story as told to Sinead Mulhern.
I met Scott at a party in summer when I was 23. He came up to me and asked why I wasn’t dancing. I told him I was too shy, that I only dance after a couple drinks. He said he was the same. We started to talk and conversation just flowed. He said he was 30 and played hockey professionally in Germany. When he said that, I thought: “Are you kidding me?!” I had bad experiences with hockey players and had sworn off dating them. I also thought he was old. But he was really nice. We ended up hanging out all night and I started to like him. When he asked for my number, I gave it to him, really hoping that he would call. He did. The next morning at 9:00 a.m., Scott called wondering if he could take me out that day. We met at the beach at noon. I was really excited. Our beach walk turned into lunch and then a movie and then coffee. We spent the entire day together just talking about everything. We both wanted similar things out of life– marriage, kids, the whole setting down thing, etc. Our connection was undeniable.
I dated Scott for the entire summer before he headed back to Germany and we saw each other every day. When the summer started to wind down and the hot days started showing symptoms of fall, we both knew he was getting back on that plane which would whisk him across the Atlantic back to Germany. There, he would continue to build on his hockey career.
“Four years later, Scott proposed. I was so happy to marry this amazing, caring man. I struck gold with him, I really did.”
That was just the reality. But we also knew that what we had was more than a summer fling. I didn’t want to do long distance but we didn’t want to break up either. Scott made the decision to let his time in Germany come to an end. I was hesitant. Things were going well between us but I didn’t want to cause a roadblock in his career and be resented later on. But he came back to live in Canada and my worries never materialized.
We continued dating and four years later, Scott proposed. I was so happy to marry this amazing, caring man. I struck gold with him, I really did. I was 28 when we got married. We had a destination wedding in the Dominican Republic. The date was 07/08/09. I chose one that would be easy for Scott to remember. The wedding was so beautiful– like postcard pretty. I went running with my sister, Katherine, on the morning of my wedding. At one point, we stopped temporarily and she picked a flower and put it in my hair for me to wear it as I walked down the aisle.
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We were married, bought a house in Burlington and after that, I got pregnant with my first child. Carter was my December baby. He just turned six. While I’ve been a runner for 10 years, my little boy is actually the reason why Scott took up the sport. It started with a bet while I was pregnant. Scott thought our firstborn was going to be a girl but I knew it would be a boy. We bet on it. He said, “If it’s a boy, I’ll run a marathon.” Sure enough, Carter was born and within moments after giving birth I said “You have to run a marathon with me!” Eight months later, we ran Chicago together. We were officially a running couple.
Three years later, we welcomed two twin baby boys into our family– Easton and Hayden. We were happy with our family of five and three sweet boys. Scott and I were not longer shy dancers and the five of us used to blast music after dinner time and have little dance parties together. One of our favourite songs was “Can’t Stop The Feeling” by Justin Timberlake.
With the boys, Scott also had this Iron Man alter ego. They’d play along pretending like their dad was their favourite superhero. The boys loved him. He was such a kind and caring father– even now, I feel like I can’t express that enough. He was always helping anyone who needed it and he was supporting me in my running and anything else I took on. We were happy.
“When he kissed me goodbye, I didn’t know that that would be the last time I’d ever kiss my husband.”
Then, one night this past July, it was all gone. Scott was gone. He left to go play hockey with his team at 9:00 p.m. one night. When he kissed me goodbye, I didn’t know that that would be the last time I’d ever kiss my husband. I went about my evening as I normally would and three hours later, at midnight, the doorbell rang. When I looked out the window, I saw police cars. I started to get worried. I opened the door and Scott’s team mate was standing on my porch with an officer. Scott wasn’t with them. Then, I heard the words I never expected to hear. Scott has a medical emergency. They tried to save him. He was dead.
I just remember screaming and falling down. Everything changed. I couldn’t process the idea of having just lost the love of my life. I had three precious little boys fast asleep upstairs and I’d have to tell them that their Iron Man dad was dead. He was only 42. There would be so many of their major life events that Scott would never get to see.
“If it wasn’t for running, I honestly don’t know where I would be because you can go into such a dark place when this happens to you.”
I’m not really one to talk about my feelings but I have made this story public in case anyone else has gone through something similar. In processing the fact that Scott was now gone, I went running. I’ve been running for a decade and I just needed to do something– anything– that would make me feel like myself again. Running, in that sense, gave me something to hold onto as I was navigating my way through this nightmare. Running makes me a better person. It makes me a better mom. It used to make me a better wife.
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When Scott died, I said I needed to run on my own and in that time I prayed, I thought and I cried off and on the entire time. And then, somewhere along the route, a sense of calm would wash over me. I’d feel just a bit better. It probably sounds crazy to people who don’t get the whole running thing, but I really depend on it. If it wasn’t for running, I honestly don’t know where I would be because you can go into such a dark place when this happens to you.
The most bittersweet part in all of this journey through grief is when I ran the Hamilton Marathon. We had planned to do it together with my cousin Jeff. That would be Jeff’s first marathon and Scott was coming back from his retirement from running just to do it with him. When Scott passed away, I said I would absolutely not run. There was no way. I was on a run one day though and all of a sudden I thought “What am I thinking? He would want me to run.” So I made the decision to do it. I would run it with my sister and our running group– MumsWHoRun. Those women have been so supportive through this whole thing. I couldn’t have done this without them. We would all go to the start line together. This one would be for Scott.
My marathon PB had sat at 4:11 and Scott always said that he thought I could run a sub-4:00. On race day, Jeff wore shorts with Scott’s hockey number printed on them so that we could bring him with us along the route.
Running that day was incredibly emotional for me. I was running for Scott and he was on my mind through the entire course. In the last seven kilometres especially, I was crying. The pain and all the emotions of the past few months seemed to be really strong. I was listening to a pre-made playlist and every song was making me think of him.
Then, that Justin Timberlake song came on– “Can’t Stop The Feeling.” I felt then that Scott was there with me. It seemed like a sign. I gunned it and gave it my all as I powered through the last kilometres of the race. My friends and family were there for the support and had made a sign with the words “This One’s For Scott.” I held it high and brought him across the finish line with me.
There’s one more thing: I broke the four-hour mark just like he predicted. I set a new PB of 3:57. That one was for Scott.