Miss Alba accomplished something that I have never seen before or may never see again as a long as I live. Now if that doesn't grab your attention, I don't know what will. Let me explain...
Alba Gibson is a very dear friend of mine. We were co workers. I was her store manager and she worked as a sales associate in the fabrics department of our store. You see Alba was one of our longest length of service associates at the store. She had in over 30 years of service and she finally retired this last November on her birthday. She was 90 years old when she retired! Can you believe this? That means that she started work with our company when she was 60 years old. Think about this for a minute. Most people would be thinking about retirement at that age, but Miss Alba went on to work another 30 years until she finally decided to call it quits. This ought to tell you something about her work ethic, commitment, and determination. I've never met anyone quite like Alba Gibson.
Well I guess I could stop right here and this would speak to the statement I said earlier wouldn't it? But this short story about Alba's work history is not what I'm referring to when I say she accomplished something I've never seen before and probably never will again. Let me continue...
Miss Alba retired this last November 2006. And since her retirement we have become very close friends. Unfortunately after she retired she became very sick. Her heart was weak and she spent many days in and out of the hospital. This last time she got out of the hospital she was too weak to care for herself anymore and her daughter moved her in with her to take care of her. It was during these days of her being bed ridden that we became closer and closer as we'd visit as often as we could. We enjoyed each others company so much.
Months Prior to her getting so sick that she couldn't leave the house, she came to me one day while I was at work and she asked if she could speak to me. We sat down together and she told me she had a favor to ask of me. I asked what it was and she told me that she knew her health was bad and getting worse all the time. She said was taking care of all of her funeral arrangements and basically getting everything in order so that at the time of her death her family wouldn't be burdened with any of those details and expenses. I thought to myself, "This is just like Miss Alba." I've never seen anyone so independent (or stubborn) I might add. I knew she was determined to get everything arranged. Then she asked me if I would preach her funeral. I was of course shocked. I asked her why she wanted me to do her funeral rather than a having a preacher or clergy do it. She explained that had a dear friend that was a preacher and she had asked him to speak as well, but she wanted me to do the preaching. I asked why me, and she said that she respected me as not only her boss, but as the man of God that she knew I was. Up to this point in our relationship we had laughed and visited together about many things, but we had never had the opportunity to talk about spiritual things. This just reminds me again, how important it is that we lives our lives each day so that other people can see the Holy Spirit leading our lives. We may be the only bible that others are reading. Anyway, of course I told her I would be honored to do this for her. We visited for a while and of course I had to ask her about her salvation. I was relieved and comforted to hear her tell me about her relationship with Jesus and the day she got saved and about her baptism and her days of going to church. She told me that she hadn't been in a church for a while and she regrets that, but this didn't change the fact that Jesus was Lord of her life. She also shared that she wanted the Pallbearers to be her co workers. She gave me a list of names and I told her I would speak with each of them and let her know what they say. Of course they all said yes. They all loved her as well and would do anything for her. Well from this day on we both got to know each other on a more personal level.
As she got weaker and weaker and finally became bed ridden, we'd visit as often as I possibly could come over. These times were special for her and I was blessed each time I visited. She truly was a very loving and caring person. She loved her family so much and she often shared how appreciative she was that they took her into their home rather than send her to a nursing home.
Well the day finally came, Miss Alba passed away and even though I was preparing myself for it, it was still very difficult to accept. The day of the funeral arrived and as I sat at the front of the sanctuary behind Miss Alba's casket, I looked out at the crowd of family and friends and what I saw is what I was talking about earlier. Something I've never seen before and may never see again. It dawned on me that the sanctuary was filled mostly with my associates that I supervise at work. Here I am the store manager, yet the preacher as well in this case. The Pallbearers were associates from work. Other than a few family members and friends the majority of the crowd were associates. Miss Alba's family was made up of her co-workers. She loved her work, she loved the associates she worked with and I remember the only times I ever saw her cry during our visitation times together, was when she would tell me she missed so much not being able to get out of bed and go to the store and see her friends at work. Today as I looked out I became aware of the uniqueness of this funeral. You see, Miss Alba's daughter also is an associate and her daughters husband, and her son in law also worked at the store. So even her immediate family was made up of co-workers. The uniqueness of all this was the opportunity that God had given me as the associates store manager, to talk to them all about Jesus. In today's work environment we have to be very careful when we talk about religion. But this day was different. Even though we weren't at work, we were all co-workers and as their store manager, I had the opportunity to tell my coworkers about Jesus and God's free gift of eternal life through his Son, Jesus Christ. This was a meeting with associates unlike any other.
After the funeral, as I watched the people begin to leave the graveyard, I wondered if Miss Alba had known all along that this would be the scene at her own funeral. It doesn't surprise me. She had planned everything else, she probably had planned this as well. I simply thank God for the opportunity that he gave me to speak to my associates about Jesus. I thank God for the wonderful opportunity that he gave me to get to know and love such a wonderful person, Miss Alba. She'll be missed, but never forgotten, and I know one day we'll see each other again in heaven. When that day comes she'll probably say... "How's everyone at work?"