This I Believe

Whitehurst, Bert W.


  • Bert Whitehurst describes how waiting for a spinal fusion surgery brought him to a belief in prayer and released him from the fear of death.
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And now, This I Believe, a series of living philosophies presented in the hope they may help to strengthen and enrich your life. Here is Edward R. Murrow.
This I Believe. Bert W. Whitehurst is both an engineer and a popularizer of engineering. For the past twelve years, he has been with the Stone and Webster Engineering Corporation. Before that, he was president of the Whitehurst Research Corporation. In addition to many technical articles, he has written and narrated a radio program over WEEI in Boston called "Romance of Engineering." Here now is Bert. W. Whitehurst.
Years ago, I fractured eight vertebrae. My legs and arms were intermittently paralyzed. The
slightest movement brought intense pain. My doctors said a spinal fusion was indicated. Because of the nature of my injury, they gave me one chance in two of surviving an operation. The alternative was many weeks in bed with heavy weights secured to my ankles and hung over the footboard to keep my spine stretched and my body immobile.
As the doctors left they said, "We'll expect your decision in the morning." That night I thought of death, of a body possibly crippled if I lived. Throughout the hours till injections in my arm dissolved my fears into slumber, I cogitated. The problem was not whether the doctors should operate, but rather should I live or die. I viewed the coldness of death not as something fearsome but as a
friend. I prayed earnestly to die, for this meant freedom from the excruciating, paralyzing pain I feared.
As I prayed my thoughts brightened. Slowly at first, then gaining momentum, came a desire that became an obsession during the time I remained in traction waiting for my damaged spine to heal. I had many weeks to think, to meditate. Truly meditation is worth rubies, for through it I have achieved a greater appreciation of life's values.
Oft times when I have felt lonesome among friends or sad in the midst gaiety, when minor problems have been annoying, when my problems could not be discussed with friends and those near to me, or when the
burden appeared too heavy to carry alone--problems the size of mountains, through prayer, shrunk to pebbles. Solace and a clear concept of the path to follow have always been the result of sincere prayer.
I believe that through our life we weave with our loved ones a fabric of our design. And when our loved ones die, the warp between us doesn't break. We pick up the threads where they dropped them and our memories influence the continuance of our weaving. I believe God's greatest gift to man is the ability to reason, to love, the privilege to communicate with him.
The descriptions, ideas, and concepts people have of God are legion. Most I can't accept. Some indicate
the result of specific teaching and are not rationalized thinking. I charted every description of God I read about, gleaned from lectures or from questioning. The variance was amazing. Differences far apart. Yet through all there was a theme--sometimes veiled, oft times clearly defined. From this I concluded that God is a great intelligence, a great intellect, and that our earth, our universe and its life, are the product of this great intelligence. His scheme of things is not haphazard but precise and orderly. The little role we play on earth during our short life is a high privilege and should be enjoyed to the fullest degree. Work also is a privilege; the reward: peace and rest at the end of the day.
I believe that the life we lead is controlled in a great measure by ourselves and that by helping
others, we help ourselves to a fuller share of life's many blessings. I review the past thoughtfully and look into the future without fear. So far, my life has been so full of the joy of living, so full of life's cherished happiness, that truly my cup runneth over.
Those were the beliefs of Bert W. Whitehurst, an engineer of Boston, Massachusetts.