Wednesday 15 February 2006

Hilda Matthews

by Matt Betts

Sadly, last week, Hilda Matthews passed away peacefully. Hilda, who first visited Lourdes with the Catholic Association in 1996, will be remembered by many as a bright member of the Accueil.

I first came to Lourdes in 1997 and my first job as a brancardier was to be an Accueil roller. I was a very nervous branc when I arrived for duty, and I found myself looking for someone to push, as everyone seemed to have already left! Suddenly, from behind, a lady tapped me on the shoulder with her stick, and asked whether I was free to take her to mass. It was Hilda. Now I was petrified, because I was about to do my first rolling! However, all of this fear disappeared immediately, when Hilda simply said something along the lines of: don't worry everything will be fine. And, everything was - until the return!

Hilda needed to get a number of presents for her many grandchildren and asked me to take her shopping, which I did. Unfortunately, on our return from town, I inadvertently took the wrong turning (to this day I still don't know where!), and ended up on some road with a few cars coming past quite fast. In sudden panic to move Hilda away, I swiftly turned the voiture left into the pavement, and thus the drain!! A little crash, and Hilda was shaken about a bit, but safe! She insisted we went for a cuppa, so I could calm down and made me laugh the whole time!! For the rest of the week Hilda insisted on me taking her to every event, and over the next nine years we became firm friends. I have mentioned our first meeting, because it always reminds me of how wonderfully kind Hilda was to all who knew and visited her. I have also mentioned it, because she liked to tell the same story (with some expansion!), to all who visited her and claimed "it was only last year". She always made me smile. In particular, Hilda decided that only two careers befitted her young male helpers, that of priest or doctor. Thus, each year she would joke with me and others that she was waiting for us to make our choice and wanted to know why we hadn't done so yet?! Hilda was always full of good advice, and in 2005, advised me that I had put on too much weight and from now on should pull two voitures a day to get myself sorted! Thanks Hilda!

Hilda was an absolutely remarkable and wonderful person, who in her lifetime adopted 10s of children, and brought up 8 of her own. She "adopted" a few brancs and handmaids too! She was a very prayerful lady, and prayed every day to Padre Pio and Our Lady of Lourdes. She particularly prayed for those who had lost their faith and for their return to Jesus. In light of all of this, she became a Prayer Member of the Hospitalité in 2004.

Many of us will have our own story about Hilda, because she lit up any room she was in. Thank you Hilda for being my friend, and a friend to everyone who visited and cared for you in Lourdes - you will be sorely missed by all of us.

May she Rest in Peace.

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