From Chicken Soup for the Country Soul

Love Goes a Long Way

Love received and love given comprise the best form of therapy.

Gordon Allport

I have received some wonderful fan mail over the years. I’ve received letters from couples who have fallen in love with my music, gotten married because of my music and raised their children on my music. I’ve had fans write and tell me of playing my music at weddings and on special wedding anniversaries. I’ve even been told of fans playing my hymns at a loved one’s funeral.

There have been many tender, touching letters, but one in particular, I will never forget. It came from a young lady in Canada, and it took me back to a night in the late sixties when I had played a concert in her hometown.

I remember the night well. Jan Howard was touring with me, and we were booked into an ice hockey arena in eastern Ontario. Prior to the show, we sat backstage killing time in the dressing room when a man came by and asked if he might speak with us a moment. We said sure, and he walked in.

He sat down and softly told us about a young man from the town who, he said, had wanted to attend our concert more than just about anything in the world. All he had talked about for weeks was our coming to town, telling everyone how he was looking forward to seeing our show. But only a few days before we arrived, this young man was critically injured in a motorcycle accident. And he was lying cut, badly broken and only semi-conscious in a hospital bed on the other side of town. The prognosis for his survival was not good.

“I have a feeling,” our visitor continued, directing his request toward me, “that if you and Jan would just take a minute of your time and go by the hospital to see this young man, it would be the best medicine anyone could possibly give him. He may not even recognize you, but he’ll know you were there. I can’t tell you how much he loves and admires both of you. If you’ll just go say hi, I’ll be glad to drive you over and I’ll bring you back.”

Fortunately, there were two shows set for that night with over an hour’s intermission scheduled between the ending of the first show and the beginning of the second. Jan and I agreed we would go to the hospital between shows. “But we’ve got to come directly back,” I cautioned. “We can’t afford to be late.” The man said he understood fully, and he told us he would be in his car with the motor running outside the stage door at the end of the first show.

I was surprised to find, when we arrived at the hospital, that the “young man” we had been told about was a big, strapping dude, well over six feet tall and probably weighing over two hundred pounds. His name was Arthur, and to my further surprise, he was married and the father of several children. I had expected, for some reason, an irresponsible teenager.

Arthur was hurt every bit as badly as our visitor had indicated. I remember seeing legs in casts, arms in casts, wires and tubes connected to virtually every part of his body. He was apparently receiving large doses of medication, and he appeared to be only partially awake.

Jan and I walked over to his bedside and told him who we were. We told him we were sorry he had gotten banged up so bad that he couldn’t make it to our show. And we told him that we fully expected him to get well so that the next time we were up that way he could come to see us. We tried to keep everything on a light, positive note, but it wasn’t easy. The young man was obviously very seriously injured. He could barely move his eyes to let us know that he was even aware we were in the room. I left his side feeling less than hopeful.

But God is still in the miracle business. The next contact I had with him was a letter from the family a few months later telling me that Arthur was improving. And the letter thanked me over and over again for having taken the time to come see him.

“You and Jan coming to the hospital gave him the will to live,” the letter said. “He says he is going to get well enough to come see your show next time you’re here. And we believe he will.”

I was back in the area again about a year later, and I thought of Arthur and wondered how he was and how his recovery might be coming along. I didn’t have to wait very long for my answer. When we pulled up to the arena, here came a big, husky guy in a motorized wheelchair grinning from ear to ear. He hugged my neck so hard he nearly broke me in two. All the family hugged me too, saying repeatedly that our visit to his hospital room was the medicine that saved his life.

The next time I saw Arthur, he was in the parking lot outside my office in Nashville. He had gotten well enough to drive and with the help of a special apparatus connected to the steering column of his car, he drove nearly a thousand miles to come see us at the Grand Ole Opry. He was truly a living miracle.

I stayed in touch with him and his family over the years. I saw him several more times, and he never failed to mention the visit Jan and I had paid him during the darkest moments of his life. And then I didn’t see him or hear from anyone in the family for quite some time. One day I received a letter from his oldest daughter. It was very simple and to the point. She said simply that Arthur had become very ill and had died. She told me very few details. But she wrote one line that will stay with me forever:

“Thanks to you,” she said, “I had a daddy for twenty years.”

Whisperin’ Bill Anderson

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