On Loan

Hilda was sent as part of a mission outreach to our small rural church over fifty years ago by a larger church in town.  She was the music maker of the group of individuals sent to minister to the unchurched children and families in the vicinity of the Chapel, many of whom were Hispanic and Native American.  She played piano and accordion, both with great energy and gusto, so hymns were sung with enthusiasm and a distinct rhythm and style under Hilda’s accompaniment.  There was singing time, some group worship time, and then the age groups would be split into classes for Bible stories and more in depth study.

There was something infectious about a little lady who loved her hymns so much.  She knew all the “old timey” songs like “Bringing in the Sheaves” and “When the Roll is Called Up Yonder” with punchy choruses and a parade like beat.  She also knew her Bible and kept careful track of the passages she heard illuminated by sermons Sunday after Sunday.  In fact, Hilda kept track of everything.  She started a daily diary in her early twenties and kept documenting the daily events, weather, who was sick, who was born, who was wed and who was not in volume after volume, resulting in a closet full of diaries that contained more history than most encyclopedias.  She was “blogging” before anyone knew what that meant.

She kept it up until the day she fell on her floor at age 95, sustaining painful compression fractures in her back, and waited patiently for someone to find her hours later even though she had an emergency call button to use, but was concerned it might be a bother to someone if she pushed it.  To recuperate, she went to live in an extended care facility, and there kept a running list of who came to visit.

Hilda and her family loved her little mission church, which eventually grew to become its own congregation with its own pastor, and twice a year, in celebration of her birthday and the anniversary of her arrival at the Chapel, during the offertory she would either play several hymns on her accordion or on the piano, or both.  If she wasn’t satisfied with the quality of the singing from the congregation, she would tell us all “I know you can do better!” and play the hymn again.  We learned to sing it really loud the first time because her hearing was going.

Her last time playing for church was only a few weeks before her injury.  She was as punchy and enthusiastic as ever.

Yesterday morning, Hilda was awakened by a nurses’ aide for breakfast, and was alert and ready for the day.  When the aide returned a short time later, Hilda’s spirit had left and gone away, leaving her earthly shell behind.

She was on loan to the Chapel all these years, she liked to remind us, having never become a member.   Hilda was clear that when the time came, her original home church in town would be the one to take care of her final journey.   So next week, the Chapel people will go to the larger church in town to celebrate Hilda’s favorite hymns and favorite scriptures, knowing with full confidence that she was one of our own, on loan from God.

11 thoughts on “On Loan

  1. Thank you Emily for such a wonderful tribute for such a wonderful woman. She will be missed and our will certainly miss her ministry and her gifts.


  2. Hilda was one of a kind. She always greeted you when she walked into church and loved the singing and her smile was infectious. When Pastor Bert told me last night at the ballgame all I could say was she is now happy. Heaven was her destination for alot of years and seeing the Father was her joy. God Bless You Hilda


  3. I have known Hilda since I was in Grade School. [63] yrs]Her daughter Minnie & I were good friends.Hilda was such a sweet lady and let everyone know that God was first for her and wanted that for everyone else.Fresh loaves of her bread was a treat.When we had our Fall Potluck at Church she would bring her Bodicle.When she could no longer do this I told her I would be happy to carry on the Tradition.
    , she was happy to know that.
    I had the priviledge of helping with her everyday needs while she was under our care at the Nursing Home. Always a smile for everyone and so open about her Faith.
    She will be missed but oh what joy for her , she has gone Home to be with her Lord. Martha


  4. I don’t have anyone very much like Hilda in my frame of reference, Emily, but I profoundly appreciate your bringing her into it. Wonderful. My ability to relate surely has to do with my enthusiasm for those old-timey songs. I often use gospel tunes for instrumentals — “Life’s Railway To Heaven” is on my next CD!!!


  5. I told Abbey and Gabe today that Hilda had passed away. They have such a fond memory of her coming to our home for a chapel birthday luncheon. She admired my yard and garden as we sat on the back patio and told me it looked “just like a park”. I look at my little piece of backyard differently because of that encouragement. She needed little urging when I asked her if she would play a few tunes on our piano and she played them with gusto! Gabe reminded me that she also enjoyed the luncheon “with gusto” and had a bigger appetite than everyone there (he’s into food these days). I took her hearty appetite as a compliment to my cooking.
    She was a special lady and I’m blessed to have known her for the few short years I’ve been at the chapel.


  6. There are hymns, like “When the Roll is Called Up Yonder,” that I will forever be able to close my eyes and hear Hilda playing and singing. We will miss her.


  7. Thanks for sharing the bigger story of Hilda, Emily. Being “new” to the chapel I have fewer memories. We always enjoyed her playing hymns on her birthday, and – having a HoH family member – could sympathize with her loud ‘whispers’ to know what passage to turn to.

    I think I understand better why the singing at the chapel is so wonderfully enthusiastic!

    Rejoicing with Hilda,



  8. So well said, Emily! Hilda had many sterling qualities lived out faithfully. I can picture her singing in her new, and much better, home.


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