By Terri Ferguson Smith / firstname.lastname@example.org
The Meridian Star
In the wake of a loss, many families struggle to find a way to honor and memorialize a loved one, but for James and Bettye Gibson, the way to honor their son was to give the way he gave.
The Gibsons lost their youngest son, Jim, to esophageal cancer on Feb. 3.
Jim would have turned 51 on Dec. 6 and as his birthday neared, Jim’s widow, Lesa, and their three sons, Austin, 23, Caleb, 21, and Hunter, 17, wanted to find a way to honor him. The family, as well as friends and former co-workers of Jim’s decided that they would approach it the way he would have.
"He came into this world with a servant's heart and he went out with a servant's heart,” his father, the pastor of New Hope Baptist Church in Clarkdale said.
On Jim’s birthday, his parents volunteered as workers at Wesley House Community Center in Meridian. This was part of an effort to get people who knew Jim to give their time to others in need. A Facebook page dedicated to “Be Someone’s Gem,” described the goal.
“Many of you know that the best way we could describe Jim Gibson is simply 'servant,'” a post said. “To celebrate his birthday this year, we would like to invite you to be part of "Be Someone's Gem" day on December 6th. The idea is simply to pray about how the Lord would have you serve someone that day — to be someone's 'gem' — in honor of our Jim and to the glory of the Lord. This could be public or private, individual or corporate, in your efforts to serve others on this day.
"The boys and I are excited to consider what this might look like in our community and beyond — not just on this day but in the days to come. Already we are hearing of beautiful plans for ministry. Jim was such a faithful servant — we can think of no better way to celebrate his birthday.”
The post includes a Bible verse: "Serve one another humbly in love." — Galatians 5:13
Bettye Gibson said her son lived just under six months after his diagnosis of cancer. She and her husband knew what kind of man he had become, but still they were surprised at his funeral when they met so many people who had so many stories of Jim’s giving nature.
"It was evident at his funeral because there were 2,000 to 3,000 people there,” James said. "Every one of them had a Jim story — things that we never knew about."
Bettye said Jim favored giving time, rather than money, although he did donate funds to some causes. But he preferred hands-on volunteerism.
"He was the kind of man who was a servant to everybody he came into contact with. If he saw a need, whether it was somebody on the side of the road or on the street corner who needed help or anything else that he learned about, he sought to meet that need,” she said. “He would say, ‘I can do that and I will take care of it.’"
Even as a child, she recalled, her son had a kind heart.
"As a little boy, if he saw somebody who might need help, he would try to help,” she said. “That's just who he was."
As the Gibsons sorted through toys at the Wesley House on Thursday, they were quietly celebrating their son’s birthday.
"Our eyes have been opened to a lot of needs that we never saw before,” Bettye said. “That's why we're here, to honor his memory and to do what we can for somebody else. We knew that Wesley House had need of helpers to come and do this kind of thing.”
On Friday, the “Be Someone’s Gem” Facebook page was busy with reports of deeds that friends and family that had been done in Jim’s memory. One family cooked and delivered vegetables to four shut-ins; a fifth grade class provided Christmas for a family in need; a young girl donated books for a book drive; others made Chex mix and muffins for hospital waiting rooms.
And Jim’s former co-workers also remembered him on his birthday. Dunn Construction delivered goody bags and supplies for the women and babies at Aletheia House, according to the Facebook page.
From one of the Dunn ladies: "It was heartwarming to see how much this small gesture was appreciated. They were all so moved by the thoughtfulness, but I know I can speak for those that contributed that we got way more out of it than they did."
One of the friends of the Gibsons perhaps said it best on Thursday, Bettye said.
“I don't think this is the last year that this will happen. I think it will go on."