The Summer Olympic Games kick off next week, as athletes from around the world will leave home and hope for gold, one U.S. long jumper hopes to bring home gold for his mother.
Youth fades; love droops; the leaves of friendship fall. A mother’s secret hope outlives them all.
This is a beautiful quote from American poet Oliver Wendall Holmes, and it might be the perfect quote for Olympian Jeff Henderson’s relationship with his mom.
Henderson’s high school memories about his mother seem just like yesterday.
“I remember going for a touchdown, I could hear her yelling. I was like ‘oh my gosh’,” Henderson recalled.
The long jumper fondly recounts his mother’s love for him. She was always there to take care of him, however, one memory remains a reality. Henderson’s mom has been bed ridden for four years.
As a teen, he got the news his mom Debra was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. The disease continues to take it’s toll today as doctor’s tell the family she might be in the final stages.
“It went from walking and talking, then not doing anything, falling all the time, being in bed, not being able to walk at all, then not talking at all. It’s like damn why is it going away that fast,” Henderson said.
After making the U.S. Olympic long jump team, Henderson came home to central Arkansas. Debra couldn’t respond to the news of Rio, but her eyes told the story.
“When he comes in town, she just looks at him,” his father Laverne said. “He is the baby, and he is the momma’s baby.”
Henderson said he believes even with his mother’s struggle, she still knows what’s happening.
In the end, the love of his mother is all Jeff Henderson needs to jump to Olympic gold.
Henderson’s dad is not going to Rio to watch the Olympics. He said his heart wouldn’t be there, his heart will be in Arkansas and he can’t leave Debra.