I hadn’t thought about Travis Roy recently.
But I should have.
We all should have.
Going through these uncertain times, ravaged by the COVID-19 pandemic with no resolution in sight, it certainly tests our resolve and resilience. People have lost loved ones, jobs and the freedoms we enjoyed seemingly a lifetime ago.
What Travis Roy had to deal with forced him to call upon every fiber of resilience in his mind, and his paralyzed body, to have a life.
Roy, a Yarmouth native who was a paraplegic, died Thursday at the age of 45 due to complications stemming from a procedure designed to enable him to maintain his quality of life.
He was a hockey player with high aspirations. He wanted to compete in Division I and that meant countless hours of practices, many early in the morning and late at night.
At the time, Maine had produced only a handful of Division I hockey players.
Danny Bolduc of Waterville played at Harvard while Mike McHugh of Bowdoin and Gardiner’s Eric Weinrich played at the University of Maine. All went on to play in the National Hockey League.
In the 1995 season opener at Walter Brown Arena in Boston, Travis Roy put on his Boston University sweater for the first time. The Terriers were playing the University of North Dakota.
Travis Roy had made it! His dream had come true!
But that tremendous joy lasted only 11 seconds.
On his first shift, after checking a North Dakota player, he fell awkwardly into the boards.
His life would never be the same.
Roy went from the highest of highs to the lowest of lows in just 11 seconds. He would never walk again and had minimal use of his upper extremities. He battled despair and endured some dark moments.
But Travis Roy was special.
He did everything within his power to carve out a meaningful life. He worked tirelessly to get the most out of his body and, rather than dwell on self-pity, he decided he was going to make a difference in the world.
He founded the Travis Roy Foundation to call attention to paralysis and to raise money for paralysis research. He wanted paraplegics and quadriplegics to have the best quality of life available through medical breakthroughs.
Travis Roy wanted everyone dealing with paralysis to have hope that they would gain more mobility. He didn’t want anyone to endure what he had gone through.
He became a motivational speaker who improved the lives of thousands of people by sharing the message that human resolve is powerful and can be called upon to overcome many problems, whether physical or emotional.
It is that resolve that we need to deal with the coronavirus and the impact it has had on the world.
Roy wrote an inspirational book with E.M. Swift called “Eleven Seconds: A Story of Tragedy, Courage & Triumph.” Once you started reading it, you couldn’t put it down.
It detailed his trials and tribulations and it also highlighted the remarkable support system that Roy credited with enabling him to have a fulfilling life. His family, his girlfriend, BU head coach Jack Parker, the BU community, the college hockey world and the people of Maine all embraced him.
Parker made Roy an integral part of the BU program and remained a part of his life.
Travis Roy never lost sight of the fact he was a Mainer. He was proud to be one and he epitomized Maine spirit, resiliency and resolve with an exclamation point.
During these challenging times, think about Travis Roy and the obstacles he had to overcome — not only lead a productive life, but to become a difference-maker in the world.
He will always be an inspiration. He showed us that we have it within us to overcome adversity.
He will never be forgotten.