By Judy Melton
Just like the song says, “You don’t know what you’ve got ’till it’s gone.” Heaven surely gained a new saint on the day that Clarke County lost John Lyttle.
John was that very rare combination of high intellect, deep humility and consistent good works. He could not give enough of himself away to others. Having multiple available options, he chose to live the Sermon on the Mount. He lifted the heaviest of the hand bells in our Voices in Brass group. He sang in the men’s section of our adult church choir. A lay minister, he preached from the pulpit occasionally, served as church moderator, and performed weddings (including one at night, on his own front lawn). My husband Bob often assisted him when he provided background music at the bluegrass concerts at the high school, Berryville yard sales, and the Christmas parades. He led Bible studies for the all-but-forgotten residents at Mary Hardesty House, and took them complete dinners on Thanksgiving. This winter he split and delivered firewood to a woman who had no other source of heat. He also replaced bathroom flooring for a widow with a badly injured hand. In our church he ran the sound system, got rid of pests (bats), lit candles, changed out light bulbs, replaced batteries. In his bearing, he possessed a quiet, reverent joy. On Super Bowl Sunday we worshipped at Berryville Baptist. Prayers were offered, the choir sang, the sermon was preached. There was a fundraising lunch in the fellowship hall to benefit the youth department. Bob said he saw John drop $40 into the donation basket for an upcoming missions trip. Then he went to his home on Moose Road. He walked through his cluttered garage and into his house to his beloved wife Kim. Sometime that night he climbed the stairs to the bathroom. There he fell, hit his head and died. He had just turned 68.
We were very surprised when the phone rang at 8am the next day. Bob said, “John who?” He handed the phone to me, his face white. I heard Kim say in a faint mechanical voice, “John died last night.” I blurted out, “John who?” just before it hit me. The rest of the week was a blur.The church was packed, with every program distributed. Several of us stood and gave heartfelt and sometimes amusing tributes. Our little church is trying to soldier on. Our minister is due to retire in April. We were looking forward to changes and new beginnings. But John was supposed to lead the search committee with his calm, measured demeanor. He and I were supposed to sing an arrangement by Bill Gaither. John was supposed to do this, John was supposed to do that. Did we rely on him too much? Probably. There are so many of us whose lives John impacted for good. There are so many needs out there. For those of us who knew him, each act of kindness is a way to honor John’s memory.