‘Between a Rock and a Hard Place’ author fills Jesse Auditorium

The event was completely sold out.

As Aron Ralston stepped onto Jesse Auditorium’s stage Wednesday evening, the eyes of the audience immediately went to his mechanical arm. But as he began to speak, the fact that he was an amputee seemed to diminish.

He came out with candor and confidence that the audience overlooked the fake arm. When hearing Ralston’s story for the first time, one would think that the lecture would have been intense and intimidating, but the complete opposite happened as he described each step with humor and he kept to tone casual.

In April of 2003, Ralston went for a walk in Canyonlands National Park in Utah. Weaving through the twists and turns of Blue John Canyon, he found the wilderness for which he had been searching.

Suddenly, as he descended, a half-ton chalk-stone came loose and fell on him, pinning his right arm. After six days of isolation he took his one-inch knife and began to amputate his arm and eventually free himself.

Ralston had his video camera as well. He began recording, describing how he had come to be stuck in the canyon and said his name and the name of his parents. He began to recite his will and testament. He said goodbye to his family and friends, thanking them for being there for him throughout the years.

“I was standing in my grave,” he said.

He said he was convinced that he was going to die in that spot, pinning between the rock and the wall.

“I told myself, ‘Aron, you’re not going to see the dawn,’” he said.

He then carved his own epitaph in the rock: “R.I.P. Aron.”

He said what came next was nothing short of a miracle.

“It was as if I had stepped out my body,” he said. “I began to walk through the canyon and suddenly stepped into a living room. I saw myself and a little boy with blond hair and blue eyes. He ran to me and I scooped him up.”

Ralston said the premonition gave him the push to do the impossible, and he did it for that little boy.

“All my happy memories, multiplied by all of the happy memories yet to come, crammed into one moment,” he said of his escape from the rock. “I stepped out of my grave and into my life.”

He said the lessons he learned from that cross with death became engrained in him and he continues to speak those lessons to every crowd he meets.

“Adversity will fall our way,” he said. “It may not be a boulder, but we will meet it. The most important thing is to follow your dreams and enrich the lives of others.”

Ralston continues his passion of canyoneering and mountaineering despite the incident that he eventually chronicled in his book “Between a Rock and a Hard Place” and the film “127 Hours.”

“I couldn’t give it up any more than I could give up breathing,” he said.

He encouraged everyone in the audience to follow their passions, whatever they might be. For him, it was not necessarily the will to live that gave him the courage to free himself – it was the will to love.

The child who gave him the strength to do this unfathomable act became a reality for Ralston and his wife in 2010. Leo the blond haired, blue-eyed angel that was sent to him in his greatest time of need was born.

The will to love and the nerve to keep pushing forward, even in times of adversity is what he said he wanted to leave with his audience.

“May your boulder be your blessing,” he said.

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