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.