Heaven just got a little brighter

By George Stahl

As much as it feels that COVID-19 has consumed our days, the everyday things that life throws at us have not stopped — the good and the bad that happens to us all.

Recently, one of those life things came to a family in the Kern River Valley in the form of a tragedy.

As a result of substantial injuries he incurred in a motorcycle accident in Tennessee, John Anderson lost his battle to stay alive. John was in a hospital more than 2,000 miles away from his family and friends, breathing with the aid of a ventilator, holding on to his life with the help of a feeding tube, while drifting in and out of an induced coma. Despite all the contraptions and advanced treatment he was receiving, those who were able to be close to him said that the look in John’s eyes was saying, “It’s OK. Let me go. I’ll be alright.”

It is not an exaggeration to say that John has hundreds of friends in the Valley. That’s not to say he just knew that many people, but every one of them was a friend. When you met John, you met someone who would be with you for the rest of your life. Sometime in spirit only, but he was never that far off.

This is not an obituary, so I won’t get into who he was preceded by, or he is survived by, or what he did for a living and where he went to high school. If you are reading this and any of those topics hits a chord with you — good. That was your relationship with John. Each of us, of the hundreds, has that in common. We all have a memory that only we share with the man. Each of us has something we can say about him during a period of his life when we were with him. Together then, we make up the legacy of John Anderson.

As for me— and I would say most of us— we know John as a man of integrity and genuine humility. In life, we all have our demons to fight. Without them, though, we don’t have the good dwelling inside of us. John knew how to make that good be an important part of who he was.

It has been said of some people that they can’t say no. John might have seemed like that sort of a guy, but if you asked him to do something he wasn’t comfortable with or that he just didn’t want to do, you’d get a “No” out of him. The only times he didn’t use the word was when a friend needed help or asked him for a favor, or when there was something broken at the church and he thought he could fix it. The only other time he used the word was if he didn’t know the answer to a question, or if he had a question. He wasn’t too shy about letting you know he didn’t have all of the answers.

Almost two years ago, when my wife and I left the KRV and moved to Arizona, a friend of ours, Larry Cigainero, offered to help move us with his really big horse trailer and flatbed truck. John was there when we were loading it and asked if Larry and I needed help when we got to Arizona. We looked at each other and together said, “Sure…,” smiling.

The three of us left later that afternoon. We took turns driving the six hours, got a hotel, unloaded the next day and drove the six hours back. I have to tell you, even with the heavy rain, traffic and not finding a room until almost two o’clock in the morning when we got to Phoenix, that was the best road trip I had ever had. John and Larry had never met before the day we were loading the trailer, but I think they got to be pretty good friends in those three days. We all learned a little about one another that we didn’t know, and that can always go one of two ways. On that trip, it was all for the good.

John was a good man and was truly loved. For a guy, that’s about the best anyone can say about him. His kind heart, calm spirit and genuine love for his family, friends and God were what made John Anderson John.

Heaven just got a little brighter.

He was also my friend. I will miss him.

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