This page was last updated on Friday, 28 March, 2014.

Your Life's Hand

Steve Whitman
07 March, 2014

In this day and age of uncertainty, with countless disasters lurking on the horizon, such as the failure of the US economy, potential of world war III, collapse of the US dollar, an EMP attack, or even Planet X, thousands of people are preparing. There are literally hundreds of books, pamphlets, videos, and articles that are available on survival techniques, living off the land and grid, food preparation, and just about every other subject associated with catastrophes. Many people are busy stocking up on food, water, buying guns and ammo, building shelters, and loading up their cellars with dehydrated food and MRE’s, thinking they are all set and “good to go”. However, one must ask oneself, “am I truly ready?”

Until the time comes, no one knows, for sure, how he or she will actually react to a catastrophe or a life-threatening situation. Personally, my test came on October 1, 2013, when a past employee, while I working on a backhoe, approached me. Without any warning, he pulled a .45 semi-automatic handgun and shot me three times, before killing himself with a shot to the head. The first round hit me in the right hand, the second came in on the right side of my chest, went through me to the left side, and buried in my left shoulder, and the third hit me in the lower right back and came out through my right chest, as I was leaping off the backhoe. Needless to say, the shock and pain was something I had never experienced. With blood pouring out of my chest, my right index finger almost blown off, and my left arm immobile because of the lodged bullet in my shoulder, I managed to give myself emergency first aid. Then, I had to climb back on the backhoe, because of no cell phone coverage, and drive it, with my left elbow, almost a mile. After the first call failed, I had no choice, but to get off the tractor, treat myself for shock to avoid passing out, and dial 911 six additional times until I got help. Needless to say,..... That.... was not a very good day.

I have spoken to literally dozens of people about the incident, and most of them always say something like, “I could never do that”, or “I couldn’t handle it” and “how did you ever survive?” After speaking to a young man about the ordeal, he responded, “If anything like that ever happened to me I would sit down and cry like a little bitch”. Then there was the middle-aged man who said to me, “I wish I had your courage, but I don‘t, so it would be curtains for me“. Mostly, all the responses from people were very similar and all had a feeling of hopelessness, despair and a “giving up” attitude. This surprised me, as I never thought about failing or being helpless. I was on a “mission” and could only think of one thing, which was survival and beating the situation at hand. Now, that the dust has had a chance to settle, and I can reflect on a few things, my grandfather comes to mind.

My grandfather (on my father’s side) was a huge man, standing 6’-3” tall and weighing 350 lbs. He is probably the strongest man I have ever known. He could lift, in his prime, 55 gallon steel drums filled with motor oil and stack them on top of each other. Even when he got much older in his late 60’s, with forearms like Popeye and a size 18 ring finger, no one messed with “Big John”. Born in New York City in 1898, he left for the state of Oregon to work in the lumber camps at the age of 16.

As he used to tell me all the time, “hard work and a lot of it, that was our gym” Once, a friend told him, “you know Mike’s horse has a girth of 56” and your waist is 58“, what do you think of that?” My grandfather, sipping from his quart bottle of Tiger brand ale and thinking for a moment, calmly responded, “Must be a small horse”.

He operated a small farm down the road from where I grew up and sold vegetables and strawberries to the neighboring markets. In the winter, he trucked plywood from a local mill and other products to Boston, including laurel and balsam Christmas wreaths which he and my grandmother made in their home. I got to spend a lot of time, growing up on the farm, with my grandfather. In fact, he had me do many things that my parents, if they had known, probably would not have appreciated too much, such as driving the Ford 8 end tractor, by myself, when I was 5 years old. I could not even reach the clutch in a seated position, so standing on the running boards was the only way I could stop and start the dam thing. However, that was the way my grandfather treated me, never doubting what I might be capable of and always challenging me.

One day, down by the strawberry fields, we were sitting in his shanty where we had numerous talks. He turned to me and said, “you know Stevie (I hated it but he called me that all the time anyway), some day when you are my age (he was about 70 at the time), you will look back and think about all the people you have met through your lifetime. Some of them would have been bad and some very good. Not counting your mom, your dad or even your wife, if you ever get married some day,” he paused for a moment..... Then continued, “If you can fill the fingers of just one hand with people that have truly made a positive and great influence in your life and have led you in the right direction, you can consider yourself a very rich man”. At the time, I was only about 15 years old, and these words really did not mean that much to me. After all, there were far more important things in my life at that time, sports, girls, and raising hell with the guys to name a few. Today, I am not quite his age yet, when he told me those words, but the reality and meaning of that sermon is starting to hit home.

My aunt and uncle would be one finger, since they started me on the path. From a very early age, they “brainwashed” me that an education was absolutely necessary. They encouraged me to take private saxophone lessons from the sixth grade to when I graduated from high school. Since, they would give me a ride every week, this gave them the opportunity to see me on a regular basis and emphasize how important an education really was. Every week, for 6-7 years, the trip was always the same, about “how important an education was“, along with the speech on not being a “quitter” and “bearing down” when life got hard. “Keeping your nose to the grindstone”, “focusing on the important facets of life”, “not getting side tracked”, and “hanging in there when things got rough”, are words that are still burned into my brain today. Their assertiveness and concern, for my future, drove me to even acquire the rank of Eagle in Boy Scouting, and later, it gave me the option and opportunity, if I wanted to attend West Point.

My goal was to enter the Berklee School of Music, but with family members, “crashing and burning” in the music industry, they decided that would not be a very good idea and basically said "no". I was not a “happy camper” when they made that decision for me, but since they were paying for my education, off to engineering school I went. Years later, I eventually owned my own Civil Engineering and Land Surveying company and was lucky enough to be very successful. Well, I guess they were probably right after all.

They are both gone now, but those “weekly rides” are still with me. Without them, I would have never gone onto college, and my whole life would have been very different. Maybe, I would have accepted the offer in going to West Point, or became a full time musician without advanced schooling. Never the less, my path through life would have gone down a different road and how it may have turned out? Well, as my grandfather used to say, “Now...that’s something to chew on for a spell....”.

The second finger would have to be my calculus professor in college, during my first semester, of my freshman year. In high school, my study habits and grades could have been better and when I entered engineering school, a rude awakening was waiting for me. It was an awful time, most of the other guys were way ahead of me, and I was falling far behind. Desperate, I arranged for some private help from him after class. He was cordial and very professional all the time, and was always very organized when he came to class. He dressed and acted the part too, if you know what I mean. Today, I can still see him in his office, by his black board, with an integral calculus problem trying to explain it to me. He tried and tried but I was just not getting it. Finally, totally frustrated, I said to him, “well, this is way beyond me and I guess it will never sink in”. He quickly turned, to directly face me, and peering over those steel-rimmed glasses of his, he looked directly into my eyes and said with a deep stern voice, “I think the problem here is not aptitude...... but attitude”. Well, I never forgot those words and it totally changed my way of thinking about school and pushed me to succeed. I got my degree and went on to getting my professional engineers license and land surveyors registration in six states. Sadly, he probably never knew how those few words, said by him that day, affected me in the way they did. Regrettably, I never had the chance, later in life, to thank him.

My third finger is the Mayor of a city that I served under as Public Works Director for many years. When appointed to this position, I was only 27 years old. With 95 people underneath me, a 6 million dollar budget, and a city population of 50,000, it was a very challenging position. A previous mayor appointed me, when my “third finger” was a city councilor. The council’s job was to approve or disapprove the mayor’s selection, and although my “third finger” voted against my appointment, the vote was 7-2 in favor. Therefore, I received the job. Even though he voted against me, we became very good friends and worked well together. After several years, he eventually became mayor. However, stress and politics were a part of the job and I was not ready for it.

Unfortunately, I was going “down in flames” due to alcohol abuse. Of course, you think you are fooling everybody and your attitude and actions reflect it. The path I had decided to take was definitely the wrong one and would have led to nothing but total disaster. Losing your job, wife, house, and everything you had worked for was up for grabs.

Upon returning, after missing work for 2 days, due to a heavy bout with Miller beer, I got a call to immediately report to the mayor’s office. Not expecting anything, since I was always up to the mayor’s office to conduct daily business, I drove up to city hall and entered his office. With him sitting at his desk, he offered me a seat next to him as always, and with his hands clasped together on his desk, he turned directly to me and asked, “is there anything wrong with you?”, “are you cheating on your wife?”, “or do you have other problems?”. I replied, “No, I don’t think so, why?”. He then said, “Well, we don’t want to lose the best director in the state, you know” and I said, “Really, how come?” Surprised at my answer, he quickly stood up, looked directly down at me, and said without hesitation, “do you have a drinking problem?” If you have ever heard the story about the man getting the mules attention with a 2x4, well I got it right between the eyes with those words. Talk about being whacked and getting a rude awakening.

One thousand thoughts went through my mind in an instant. He continued with, “All we have in this world is our integrity and balls, once we lose either one, we are nothing. Booze will take both from you. If you are going to let this take a hold of you, then you are probably done here and maybe in life too.”

Well, this year I celebrated 30 years without drinking, because at that eye opening moment, I promised him and most of all myself that he would have the director he had once known. After a few years, under my direction, our Public Works Department (PWD) was featured on the cover of New England Construction magazine as "one of the finest PWD's in New England“.

The Mayor was an amazing man, who had the courage and willingness to confront and help me through a very difficult time. I have always carried with me his thoughts of keeping your “integrity” and “balls” throughout my life. Thank God, several years later, I was able to thank him, and his simple response was, “no big deal, I knew you could do it“. He is gone now, but his memory will always be with me. If it were not for him, I would have probably perished a long time ago.

A man I have known for about 35 years, who became my mentor, in northern Maine would be my fourth finger. I have always loved the outdoors and meeting him gave me the opportunity to learn a tremendous amount about fishing, hunting and life. Being a Master Maine guide for many years (he starting guiding in the north at the age of 12), the depth of knowledge contained within him was something to behold. Paddling a canoe, stalking a deer in the woods, the art of survival if things went bad, shooting and cleaning wild game, identifying edible wild foods, emergency first aid, are just some of the subjects I went to “school” on with him. Eventually, I obtained my Master Maine guides license (fishing, hunting, and recreation) and went on to attend several tactical, advanced survival and medical training schools. We became great friends and had many talks not just on the outdoors but also on life.

He took a real interest in me, maybe because he never had a son, and spent a great deal of time giving his knowledge to me. I was a “sponge” and he was gracious enough to let me absorb all I wanted to. As he has said so many times to me, “life is short, we are only here for a little time, if you do not grab onto it and live it, before you know it, you are an old man, and then what good are ya?”

I remember the first day, many years ago, he asked me to guide for him and I was a little nervous and apprehensive about taking the party. I looked at him and said, “I don’t think I know enough yet to take someone out”. His faced turned beat red, stared at me, and growled with a heavy Maine accent, “In a pig’s ass you don’t!” Well, that was the end of that discussion. I went on my first “official day” of guiding.

Throughout my life, both he and his wife have helped me numerous times. In fact, his wife was actually the person who told me about the sporting camp that was for sale ten years ago, that I presently own.

Our friendship is strong to this day. In fact, who do you think traveled more than 50 miles the day I was shot and met me in the emergency room only 15 minutes after I arrived by ambulance, and fed me ice chips in preparation for a possible surgery? Then, he drove over 100 miles, following the ambulance, to the next hospital to be at my bedside in the trauma unit. Besides being my mentor, he is a dear friend, a second father, and nothing is more valuable than that.

My final finger goes to a man that help save my life. In the early 90’s I severely hurt my back doing heavy squats in the gym. For years, I saw doctors, chiropractors, sports therapists, and other health professionals. I was placed on drugs, muscle relaxes, painkillers, and others, but nothing really helped much. I managed to work out and operate my engineering business but my life was never the same.

In August of 2013, while laying concrete block for a drainage structure at camp, I severely re-injured my back. Essentially, I was crippled; performing my daily guide and work duties at camp became impossible. Forget the gym workouts; I could not even get in and out of a pickup truck! However, after listening to John Moore’s radio show and learning of the energy cleaner, I was good to go after 1-2 weeks of using it and was pain free, something I had not experienced for 20 years. My back was excellent, doing my normal life’s work duties was no problem at all and it was like having a "breath of fresh air". However, I never expected, that on October 1, 2013, what a “new” back would mean to me. Because of my healthier condition, I was able to move like lightning when the shooting started and, thank God, avoid a killing shot by the gunman. The energy cleaner continued to help me throughout the healing process and amazed the medical staff. I experienced a rapid recovery, and today (almost five months later), although not 100 percent, I am on the road to being almost as good as new.

During my early days of recovery, John sent me a book titled, “The Power of Your Subconscious Mind”, by Dr. Joseph Murphy, which really opened some doors and confirmed why I had survived the shooting in the first place. You see, all the fingers of my “life’s hand” played a role in my survival. As Dr. Murphy states in his book, “focus your thought on the solution to your problem....solve it with your conscious mind”, this became extremely relevant when I was trying to survive that day.

Summarizing Dr. Murphy’s thoughts, a good captain (conscious mind) directing the crew (subconscious mind) is crucial to the proper operation of the ship (your body).

During my “test” in October, this principle was priceless to me.

Dr. Murphy continues, “Your thought is action, and the reaction is the automatic response of your subconscious mind to your thought”, and “the subconscious mind controls and governs all your experiences”. These are just some of the very interesting thoughts and principles in his book, and once you really think about it, are true and valuable advice to get through any part of your life. Probably, two of the most profound and relative statements in the book are, “The law of your mind is the law of belief“, and “the belief in your own mind which brings about the result”. These simple words, with extraordinary meaning, should always be carried with us.

In summary, the essence of the book is, your conscious mind must be in a positive and healthy state, other wise the subconscious mind cannot operate the controls of the “ship” to get you through a tough situation. People I have spoken to about the incident, immediately take the attitude “I can’t” or “that would be impossible for me to get through”, and “I would never survive that”, all sets up the conscious mind to falter, and with a failed captain comes a failed crew and a failed ship. The “defeatist attitude” and the desire to just “lie down” spells disaster during a tragedy. After speaking to these people about getting their minds in check and getting rid of the “stickin thinkin” and believing in themselves, that they too could survive a catastrophe, have thanked me up and down. For I have given them some hope and the internal workings that they might endure their "test" when it comes. For me, that realization of those people has become the most gratifying and self-healing part of this whole mess.

Therefore, in our preparation for that fateful day, it will take more than stashing a few MRE’s, and some ammo to survive a catastrophe or a dire circumstance. We all need to prepare our minds and bodies for what may occur and as John has said several times on his radio show, “get your spiritual house in order“.

All the people mentioned here, contributed to my survival. They were, in a way, using some of Dr. Murphy’s principles and techniques to prepare me for handling life’s most difficult times. Simply put, the most important words that I have discovered through this, and they will remain with me always, are as Dr. Murphy states, “for your mind will control the outcome.” For me, those words say it all.

Fortunately, on that day I had focus, determination, and the will to live. Above all, my mind was in the correct state to meet the challenge and “control the outcome”.

Yes, my grandfather was right. If you are lucky enough to “fill those fingers on just one hand, you are a very rich man“. Thank God, I had those “fingers” on that day in October, to call upon, when the chips were down and I was forced into an abyss of evil and ugliness.

Armed with those “fingers“, and maybe with a little divine intervention help as well....... I was able to survive.

Steve Whitman℠ (Right-side navigation page SSI insertion)