With his ironed shirt, jeans and chaps, and a cowboy hat he stands behind the bucking chutes ready to go once again! As his best friend, nothing could make me more proud. Words cannot describe that day at the Calgary Stampede when my world just froze around me. What an incredible gift from God to not only be blessed to walk again, but he has actually been given the choice to dust off the chaps too.
When Aaron started talking about returning to bull riding, the first thing I said was, “Are you crazy?!”
Yes, even I was thinking it! But after much discussion, we decided as a family to go for it. I knew how much the return meant to Aaron. It didn’t matter to me whether he rode or not, he had nothing left to prove in my mind, and he had showed the world his true talent. It has been truly inspiring to see my once battered and broken husband progress from lying in that hospital bed to getting back on a bull. Battling it out both mentally and physically, he has shown amazing strength as a person and athlete. I tried so hard to understand what he was feeling…as a professional athlete having to end your career in a wreck is pretty disheartening. Maybe, just maybe, if you can do it on your own terms it would be a little easier to accept.
I am so proud of Aaron and the dedication he’s had throughout his whole recovery. At times I felt so helpless in not knowing how he felt and how he was dealing with it all. I knew I needed to stay strong and positive to help him get through it. It seemed knowing what could have been the result of the accident fuelled him to fight harder at his recovery. He knew he was lucky and wasn’t going to sit around dwelling over whether he will ride a bull again. It was more important to us that he recover and be able to walk! The excitement of expecting our first child pushed Aaron to make healthier choices so he could not only hold his son, Axel, but be the active daddy he always hoped he could be. Axel has been a true gift, always a shining light even on the darkest of days, making us see life through the eyes of a child and how blessed we truly are.
Axel has been a true gift to the Roy family.
In the spring, Aaron was ready to try riding horses and the only way I was allowing him to do so was to head down the road to my sister and brother-in-laws to get on a quiet horse that didn’t have 9 months off. Afterwards, Aaron told me his back felt good and didn’t seem to bother him at all. After a few rides there, he decided to get on a horse of his own. I will never forget the big grin on his face the first day I saw him ride through the yard out to the field all on his own. The pain, sweat, tears, heartache, disappointment, and fear of the unknown during his recovery had paid off, once again. But that wasn’t the end of his recovery, riding horses and working at a pasture was just the first test as to whether his back could handle the jarring and long days in a somewhat comfortable seat.
Days rolled into months working at the pasture and his back felt really good. September 2014 came, along with the “Okay” from the doctor. Please note: “Okay” meant, “If you want to return to bull riding, I don’t see why you can’t.” Axel and I were there that day and I told the doctor, “I know I don’t have enough money to pay you, but that wasn’t the answer I was looking for!” We joked and laughed about it, but I knew that hearing the doctor say those words meant everything to Aaron. He had worked hard to return to 100% and now he could make his own decision of whether he would go back to riding or not.
A few weeks later, Aaron told me a practice night was booked and I think my heart leaped into my throat! It was really starting to sink in. Aaron soon ventured out to storage and grabbed his gear bag and dusted it off. He hadn’t looked at it since his fellow competitors zipped it up for him in Calgary in 2013 and I’m sure many were thinking, “Will this be the last we see of bull rider Aaron Roy?” Aaron sat there rustling through his gear bag, looking at his ripped shirt and smashed mask and I am sure the horror from that sunny day in Calgary flashed back.
Aaron fixing his helmet and mask for the first time since Calgary.
I asked him, “Are you sure you’re ready to do this?” and without hesitation he responded, “Yep!”
He went back to tinkering away at his helmet and replacing the mask and repacking his gear bag. I checked in from time to time and once again saw that smile on his face and determination in his eyes.
One cold night in mid-October we headed to the practice arena where Aaron would attempt to get on a bull again. I didn’t care whether he lasted one second or eight, but prayed that he would be safe and feel okay. One thing I made sure of was that a bull fighter was there and ready to protect Aaron. My heart was racing as Axel and I watched from down the arena. I can’t even imagine what was going through Aaron’s mind at the time. Was he having flashbacks of his accident or not? He sat down on that bull, wrapped his hand in the bull rope, slid up on it, nodded his head, and the gate cracked. The man I saw on that bull was a champion to me, gold buckle or not, but for what he had overcome to get to that exact moment! As soon as he was off my heart was racing again as all I wanted was for him to get back to safety on the chutes. I hollered out to him, “Are you okay?” and he answered, “Yes, are you?” I chuckled and looked over at Axel and told him, “And that’s your crazy daddy!” Aaron went on with practicing and I didn’t care whether I saw him compete again or not, but that I got to see him prove to himself he could do it!
Hallie and Axel waiting for Aaron to ride at the 2014 PBR Canadian Finals.
As we packed up and headed to Saskatoon for the Canadian Finals, I asked Aaron “Will this be your last?” All he could tell me was, “I don’t know yet.” I left it at that and away we went. Aaron winning the finals and pulling off a 90 point ride shocked us both. He was going into the event just hoping for an eight second ride. I was a nervous wreck that Friday night sitting on the edge of my seat, with Axel standing on my lap, looking out into the arena waiting for his dad to crack out of the chute. Whether Axel really knew what was going on or not didn’t matter, having him there was so special to both Aaron and I. The first night didn’t go as he hoped, but I told him to shake it off and don’t be so hard on yourself. Then on the Saturday morning we joked about him going out and being 90 points and winning the finals. Little did we think this would come true! That night, his two rides brought tears to my eyes. I am his biggest fan, always have been, and always will be! He not only proved to himself that he had the strength to overcome tragedy and didn’t let it stop him and neither was anyone else. I thought, just maybe, Aaron would talk about retirement after his win in Saskatoon, but he didn’t. His return wasn’t over yet, he had one stage left he wanted to compete on again and that was at the prestigious level of the PBR BFTS.
Aaron and his brother-in-law, Taylor Douglas, roping.
This past weekend Aaron competed at Fresno, California. I knew the bulls were stronger and harder, but if Aaron felt he could handle them, I knew he was making the right decision. Aaron being Aaron, and facing the challenge head on, he made the call to Jay Daughtery and informed him he was ready to come back for his five exemption events! He continued to prepare himself by working out at home and at the gym. He was going into the weekend again just hoping for another eight second ride. Aaron told me after the event he was a little nervous when he walked into the building and was behind the chutes, but as soon as he sat down in that chute he was ready to go and nothing else mattered, just his ride. He had a great weekend of covering one of his bulls and making the short go. I was unable to attend the event, but watched from home cheering as loud as ever. That was his goal he set out to accomplish and he did it. Once again never giving up and proving to himself this is where he still belongs.
As I look back on our journey from July 11, 2013, with the uncertainty of our lives following the accident, I always knew he would never give up. I know that this journey has made us both stronger and we gained our strength by working as a team. The hard times that life may have dealt us or may still throw our way, we know we will find a way to overcome it and learn from it. Through this tragedy, we have discovered what matters the most to us and to take nothing for granted. We are thankful for life’s blessings – big and small, the opportunities we’ve had, and look forward to what’s yet to come. And yes, I will continue to worry about Aaron, and be nervous every time he gets on the back of a bull, but I will also be excited and proud of his strength, courage, and determination because life is too short to sit around thinking about what can go wrong.
Aaron covers Past Time at the 2015 PBR BFTS Fresno Invitational for 86.25 points.
I feel this quote is very fitting:
“Pain is temporary. It may last for a minute, or an hour, or a day, or even a year; but eventually it will subside, and something else will take its place. If I quit however, it will last forever.” – Lance Armstrong
Struggles will come and go and whether you think you can handle them or not, dig deep, and fight through it, and you might just surprise yourself. When you feel like your world has come crushing down and you have no idea how to move forward, don’t give up...fight that much harder. Rely on those who are close to you for support and don’t be afraid to do things because of how others may judge you. It is your life, and your dreams, so follow them! No mountain is too tall to climb and there is no limit. Just follow your heart, it knows best. Lastly, live life to the fullest, enjoy the ride, you never know when it may be your last.
It’s been an emotional roller coaster some days but we thank everyone for the support through this journey. To our family and friends, the medical team, the PBR, the sponsors, and Aaron’s fans, once again THANK YOU! And if you’re wondering if Aaron is planning to fully return to a career of bull riding again, I don’t think you will find the answer just yet. He’s going to have fun and enjoy these next few events doing what he loves and letting it all soak in.
Follow Hallie on Twitter @RoyHallie.
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