The first time I saw her, she was waiting to be interviewed. In fact, I almost ran into her as I was coming out of the back room in the bookstore. She was pretty hard to miss, dressed very fashionably in an overcoat and scarf. I remembered thinking that there was something special about this woman, but I was not sure what it was. In any case, her maturity and poise seemed like just what we needed in the store at that time. After apologizing for nearly running into her, I made a mental note to ask Frank, the store manager, what he thought of her after the interview.
Needless to say, we hired Yvonne Little and watched her blossom as she began to serve our customers. She seemed to delight in even the most challenging problems that would arise. Nothing seemed too difficult for her to handle and we all came to love and respect her. She developed a particular interest in serving church customers and eventually became an assistant manager at the store with responsibility for oversight of church relationships. Very quickly, our church customers came in looking specifically for Sister Yvonne. She always wanted to be able to serve effectively and even took product catalogs home at night so that she could learn more about the resources that we supplied.
One day, Frank told me that Yvonne was not doing too well. I knew that she had previously had heart surgery and miraculously recovered and wondered if this was in any way related. As it turned out, Yvonne had cancer in her face and it was pretty aggressive. Her doctors recommended surgery and she resisted that suggestion for a while. Ultimately, she had the surgery and her outward appearance would never be the same again. They operated on her face and removed so much bone and muscle that reconstructive work was required.
I remember seeing Yvonne after one of these surgeries and almost not recognizing her at all. My first thought was that she would probably not want to work with us much longer because of the pain and suffering that she must be dealing with in her recovery. Ironically, working at CLC and serving customers was just what she wanted to do. Day after day she would come in and work the few hours that she could even as she got thinner and thinner. We knew that it could not be easy.
Despite all this, she served faithfully and joyfully. I was travelling a lot this year and when I would occasionally stop by the store, she would often stop me to ask where I was going or where I had been so that she could pray for me more effectively. We prayed for her regularly and watched her improve and then struggle again. She wanted to help so badly that she even made sure she could volunteer on Memorial Day when we moved the store to a new location. This summer, the cancer had taken its toll to the point that she had to stop working. We all kept praying for complete healing and restoration for her. On September 7th, that very thing happened when she went home to be with her Lord and Savior.
At her Memorial Service on Thursday, I learned how deeply she had impacted her church, family and friends over the years. She was a woman of deep faith and courage and an incredible prayer warrior. Though she was only with our ministry for a few brief years, I could not help but think that maybe God had allowed her to recover from her heart surgery so that she could become a part of our family. In her short time in CLC, she touched many lives and impacted entire churches as she served diligently and with such passion. Her daughter referred to her as a soldier for Christ and now God had summoned her home.
I now know what inner beauty is really all about. As her outer shell, her earthly tent, became worn and tattered, her inner light became all that much brighter. Only Jesus could cause someone to be that brave and joyful when they were suffering so much pain and agony on a daily basis. Her light did not go out on September 7th, but was joined the light of life forever more. May she dance and sing in her new, cancer free body for eternity with the God she loved and served so faithfully. Yvonne will be missed tremendously and will never be forgotten as a small piece of her was left in each of us that knew her. There really was something special about that dignified woman I nearly ran into that day not so long ago.