Tuesday, September 2, 2008


I've always been a bit of a plodder, so it was with some satisfaction that I came across a quote by Abraham Lincoln as I contemplated the gathering this week of the Party of Lincoln in Minnesota: "I am a slow walker, but I never walk backwards." He certainly was an example of persistence and perseverance in the face of hardships.

Sitting with my leg elevated above my heart, I have had time to reflect on my ordeal. Like anyone would, I've asked myself "why me?" and held several "pity parties." But I've also asked "why not me?" Of late, I've meditated on what I am learning from these experience so I can move forward, and not backwards. Three major lessons come to mind and I write them here for my own understanding and perhaps to help another:

1. Be Humble - I am grateful for a wife who, throughout my career in the public sector, has gently and timely reminded me that at the end of the day, I'm really not "all that," and I need to "keep it real!" Sometimes power and authority can be a giddy thing. We've been let down too many times by those who have proven the maxim that "power corrupts." Trappist Monk Thomas Merton taught that “pride makes us artificial and humility makes us real.” Sometimes, we are compelled to be humble. To me, humility is a recognition that no matter our physical prowess (or what we aging men believe our prowess to be,) our education, profession, status, authority or power, we are all, in the final summation, equally subject to infirmities of the flesh. If we are to live and succeed in our time on this earth, we must recognize that we owe, first and foremost who and what we are to God; and second to those with whom we associate in this life: our families, friends, neighbors, co-workers, and fellow citizens. In humility, I am firmly aware that my elected position means one thing: to serve the people of this great state by securing their rights, opportunities and privileges, and protecting them, their families and their children.

2. Be Patient – Despite rigorous preparation and planning, we unfortunately do not always control our course or even our abilities; so that when we are afflicted, we must trust in God, the marvels of modern medicine, and the love, support and prayers of others. Next we need to get up each day, put one foot in front of the [Ilizarov fixator rings], and do as much as we are able given our physical or other limitations. We must be patient in suffering and setbacks, and in the words of Winston Churchill, "Never give in. Never, never, never, never--in nothing, great or small, large or petty--never give in."

3. Be Empathetic - I took for granted my good health and relative athletic ability to play a lot of sports. Those activities took a toll on my joints and bones resulting in twelve surgeries including an artificial knee at the age of 42. But I always healed well and quickly. This time it has been different; and after eleven months spent in hospital beds and wheelchairs, with walkers, crutches and canes, and utilizing shower chairs, toilet risers and grab bars, I have learned a profound empathy and appreciation for those whose disabilities are permanent, and who will every day, and always, face obstacles but who nonetheless approach each day with humility, faith and courage and make an amazing difference in the lives of others. I will try to be more like them, even when - especially when - my health returns.

One of the most amazing and heroic Utahns I’ve met through all this is Sharon Ross in Brigham City who has never been out of a wheelchair (and her saint of a husband, Weston, who has lovingly cared for her every need for decades;) but they have together, and individually, accomplished amazing feats of family, work, art and charity.

More recently a humble, patient and empathetic David Watson posted a comment on my blog: "I pray for your full recovery. I was not so lucky. I was involved in a freeway rollover accident in January and lost my left leg. After 5 months in the Hospital and rehab, I'm doing fine. If you every need someone to talk to, I would be glad to talk." I called but he is taking his youngest son to BYU-Idaho. I can't wait to talk with him. If you want to be inspired, go to his blog: http://davidewatson.blogspot.com

I love to think on the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius. Consider this:

"Think on this doctrine,--that reasoning beings were created for one another's sake; that to be patient is a branch of justice, and that men sin without intending it."


Amber said...

It's amazing how one takes for granted how easy life can be if you have your health and mobility. It is so monumental when one learns how precious the little things in life are and how precious those who share those moments with us are when we lose our health and mobility. I believe that if one will take the opportunity to learn from life's mishaps, great things will come from it.

Good Luck with your recovery! Rehab and therapy are never easy or exciting but you will really learn what you are all about through the process.

In a weird sort of way, I count my blessing for the trials I went through while recovering from burns over 37% of my body. I am a better person and can relate with so many more people now.

MP Hinkley, a woman I really looked up to said, "The trick to enjoy life: Don't wish away your days waiting for better ones ahead."
In the bible, Phillipians 4:11, "I have learned, in whatsoever sate I am, therewith to be content."

These two quotes gave me the strength to find it in me to be tough on the days I just wanted to give up. Now I can humbly say it was all worth the hard work and effort to get better.

Get Well Soon!

Laura said...

Thanks for sharing your story and offering those excellent reminders that for all of us - young, old(er), sick, healthy, there are no guarantees. How would the world change if we all lived each day as if it might be our last healthy day? I think we'd be kinder to each other.
Best of luck (and hard work) for your speedy recovery!

gene said...

I seen the pictures of your leg on the news this morning and it was i was looking at my own pictures and exrays. I fell 18 ft in 2002. Sixteen operations over three years and it still didnt heal. I could do no more so i opted for amputation in Feburary 2005. Tough decicion but a good one in the long run,you to will know when to make that call.I have a very nice prosthetic leg and am finally pain free after six years.I can do anything anyone else can and maybe better than most can. You also can achive this, never give up. I would very much like to talk to you,if you feel you need someone that has been through it. Your life is not over,just alittle diferent.Hope this latest surgery will work for you.i would be happy for you if you made a full recovery.Hope you and your family the best of luck.

marsha said...

I'm so sorry you had to learn the hard way. I'm also sorry to hear that you'll be missing the Justice Center Ride this year! Ed's BBQ is the best. We'll certainly miss having you there - but hey we'll do it again next year and will be expecting you. In fact I've got your horse tied up and waiting - I'll feed and water it for you.
We are not a-hhaa (sound of throat clearing) letting you out of your pledge however - those kids are counting on us! We are trying for $20,000 this year - lofty goal so wish us luck.
Hope your leg heals and all goes well. We'll keep you in our prayers.
Uintah Basin Back Country Horsemen

Attorney General Mark Shurtleff said...

Thank you Amber, Laura and Gene. Your words comfort and inspire me. Gene, I'm so sorry for your loss but cannot tell you how grateful I am that you are willing to share with me and offer yourself as someone I can talk with. I would appreciate it if you will email me your contact information at mshurtleff@utah.gov or call or text me on my cell phone 801-558-9625.

Mr. Winfree said...

Thanks for being willing to share the human side of your life. A lot of public figures want to appear superhuman. I have a great deal of respect for those who are willing to share with us their personal thoughts, feelings and emotions.

I have been through reconstructive surgery on both of my legs that required plates, screws and crutches. I am very lucky that the surgeries worked and I am now able to live a normal life. As a teacher in Utah, I feel blessed to be able to work with young people and share my successes and failures, in hopes that it will motivate them to bigger and better things in their own lives.

On a personal note. You may not remember me, but my name is Chris Winfree. You were my scout master in California and my seminary teacher my freshman year. When I moved to Utah I was excited to see that you were the Attorney General. I have a lot of fond memories of those days in California.

I hope and pray that all goes well with your recovery. Best of luck in the upcomming election and thanks for all you do for Utah.

Attorney General Mark Shurtleff said...

Marsha, thanks for your support. I absolutely will fullfill my commitmet to support your wonderful fundraising event. I love BBQ and horseback riding. I can't be there in person but will definitely send you my pledge, but, errrr, I've forgotten what that pledge was. I'f you'll email me the amount and where to send it at msurtleff@utah.gov or text me at 801-558-9625, I'll get the check in the mail.

Happy Trails!

Attorney General Mark Shurtleff said...

Chris - I'm so glad to hear from you! I have very fond memories of
being a Scoutmaster and early morning seminary teacher in Rancho Santa Margarita. Since returning to Utah in 1994, I've been a scoutmaster twice but now am relegated to working mostly with adults as a member of the Great Salt Lake Council Board of Directors. Last year I was very honored to receive the Silver Beaver.

I can't believe so much time has passed since then and my scouts are now adults, married and with families. I'm very impressed that you chose a career in teaching. When I'm done with being an elected official, I would love to teach high school or jr. high classes in history, government, etc. In fact, I often accept invitations to come to schools to teach classes or give assemblies. Let me know if you would like to have me come to your school when I'm up and around. You can contact me directly at mshurtleff@utah.gov or on my cell phone, 801-558-9625.

I'm sorry to hear of your own physical struggles, but take courage from you in knowing that recovery is possible.

Thanks again for writing - you brightened my week!

tomg said...

Mark: Juliet and I send our prayers and love to you and the family. It was FANTASTIC to see you on the identity theft video, as recently as Wednesday, the 10th. You looked great and fully engaged, serving others as always. We assume your leg and the contraption is under the table on a chair and pillow. The earlier picture shows all five toes, so we let out a cheer!

Your words of wisdom on this posting are heart-warming and hope-giving. Your quotes from great thinkers cover important virtues and qualities, but you missed one that applies to you: courage. You have faced incalculable difficulties and have not slumped back and turned away - and that takes fearlessness and raw courage - a testament to your moral fibre. A quote from Edith Wharton: "Life is the only real counselor; wisdom unfiltered through personal experience does not become a part of the moral tissue." Keep on fighting, Mark, you're a champ!
Tom & Juliet

Attorney General Mark Shurtleff said...

Thanks Tom - you don't know how much that means to me coming from a man whom I profoundly respect and consider a mentor. I love the Wharton quote.

My love to Juliet.


Stephen Tefteller said...

Mark, I just read in the News that you are in the hospital again with another infection. My mom picked up a strep infection after having a total knee replacement in 2002. Her doc is still not sure where or how she got it. Anyway, her body rejected the knee joint twice. She was sent to see an Infectious Disease doc, and was on an IV antibiotic treatment for about 3 months. She now has a life-time scrip for the antibiotic because the infection will not die. You are TOO young to lose your leg. I hope and pray your doctors can get to the bottom of this soon.
Contact me if you want to: texastefteller@hotmail.com