Singing for his mother: How a 2020 #BaylorGrad honored his mom amidst difficult senior year
Throughout his senior year, Isaac Bradley never stopped thinking about his mother, and in the end, he says, that motivation helped carry him through the most challenging year of his family’s life, motivating him to sing for her in ways he never would have imagined.
Isaac grew up around Baylor. His mother, Brenda, taught in the English department before moving to McLennan Community College as an English professor, while his father, Dr. Randall Bradley, is a longtime Baylor music professor. As a family, the Bradley kids — Isaac and his older sister, Hannah — would spend parts of many summers accompanying their mom and dad on Baylor Missions trips, as the Bradleys led service efforts in places like Kenya and Malaysia.
A talented vocalist, Isaac chose Baylor’s School of Music to pursue a career in music education. At Baylor, he quickly became involved in numerous choirs while continuing to sing at his family’s home church in Waco. For a vocalist like Isaac and his music classmates, the senior recital is a culminating moment of their time on campus. Isaac’s senior year, and those singular moments, however, would look little like he’d have imagined.
Late in his junior year, Brenda was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. As he struggled with her diagnosis, he remembers the Baylor Family being there for him and his family. Professors wrote notes of encouragement; dozens of friends poured into McCrary Music Building for an impromptu prayer meeting the night before his mother’s surgery; and, meaningfully he says, people gave him the space to process his feelings out loud and listened as he grappled with her illness.
As his senior recital approached last November, Brenda’s health was deteriorating, preventing her from attending an on-campus event. That’s when Isaac’s voice professor, Dr. Deborah Williamson, had an idea: Isaac should perform his senior recital at home, where his mother could attend. Other music professors quickly signed off, and before he knew it, one of the most pivotal moments of Isaac’s college career was taking place in his living room, with his mother beaming in a chair and his family, friends and faculty surrounding him.
“He sang beautifully,” Williamson remembers. “It was one of the bravest things I have ever witnessed; his courage was an inspiration to all of us.”
Brenda rallied for a time after the home recital. The Bradleys were able to enjoy one more Christmas together before, on New Year’s Day 2020, her battle with cancer came to an end. At her memorial service, Isaac sang again with the Baylor Men’s Choir, performing a moving solo of the hymn “Lord of the Small“:
“Praise to the Lord of the frail and the ill
Who heals their afflictions and carries them till
They leave this tired frame and to paradise fly
To never be sick and never to die”
Isaac said a desire to press forward for his mother and support from his Baylor Family got him through a year like no other.
“I’m not completely sure how I did it, but I knew that’s what my mom would have wanted,” Isaac says. “All throughout the year, I thought of her often, and that’s what kept me going. There was no way to put those thoughts out of my head, so I decided to go about my senior year acknowledging those feelings and letting them motivate me to keep going.
“I’m so thankful that people at Baylor, many who watched me grow up, allowed the recital to happen. It was a special moment for us, and I’m very thankful we got to have an intimate setting in that moment with my mom there.”
This fall, Isaac will follow in his parents’ footsteps as an educator, leading pre-K through 5th grade choirs in the Fort Worth-area Birdville ISD.
Sic ’em, Isaac!