Dec 2, 2010

Goodbye, Grandma, God bless you

She was born Clara Helen Viola Kurth, January 16, 1917, in Haakon County, South Dakota. Years later she would tell me that, as the last of seven children, her parents gave her all the names of female relatives for whom they had yet to name a girl.

She died November 27, 2010, having outlived her parents, all of her siblings, two husbands and two of her five children. She was my last surviving grandparent and one of the greatest of the great cloud of witnesses that have surrounded me all my life.

Grandma grew up on the Kurth homestead southeast of Philip, SD. As a teenager, she would cook for the men that her father hired for his threshing crew. One of the young men was my grandfather, Anthony Hollis Hemmingson. They were married on September 29, 1935, and stayed together until Grandpa´s death on November 11, 1979.

The Kurth homestead still stands.
During the late 1930s Grandma and Grandpa lived on a farm south of Belvidere, SD.They moved to the town of Kadoka, SD, in 1942. Grandma continued to develop her talent for cooking. She worked as a cook at the H&H Restaurant, the Kadoka hospital and nursing home, and the Kadoka high school and grade school. For a time, she and Grandpa managed their own restaurant on Main Street.
Anthony Hollis Hemmingson

In 1969 Grandma and Grandpa moved to Lovington, New Mexico, as the South Dakota winters were becoming hard on my grandfather's arthritis. Grandpa passed away in New Mexico, as did my Uncle Tony (Anthony Richard) Hemmingson in 1996, her second husband, Orville "Tim" Long in 1997, and my Uncle Loren Hemmingson in 1998. Nevertheless, she continued to live in New Mexico until 2004.

Grandma's faith was a never-failing source of consolation to her during those years of loss. She and Grandpa were both baptized and confirmed as Lutherans and received Word and sacrament regularly, first at Zion Lutheran Church in Kadoka and later at Our Savior Lutheran Church in Lovington, NM. I consider this shared faith their best legacy to me.

I last saw Grandma in 2006 when Luz Maria and I visited her at my Uncle Arnie's house in Spearfish, SD. We both knew it probably would be our last meeting in this life, and she was moved to tell me how glad she was that I had found Luz Maria.

Grandma's body will be buried next to that of my grandfather in the Lovington, NM, cemetery. Their common epitaph, “For by grace are you saved through faith” (Ephesians 2:8). This also is the basis of the hymn, “By Grace I'm Saved, Grace Free and Boundless,” by Christian Scheidt, 1709-1761.

By grace I'm saved, grace free and boundless;
My soul, believe and doubt it not.
Why stagger at this word of promise?
Hath Scripture ever falsehood taught?
Nay; then this word must true remain;
By grace thou, too, shalt heav'n obtain.

By grace! None dare lay claim to merit;
Our works and conduct have no worth.
God in His love sent our Redeemer,
Christ Jesus, to this sinful earth;
His death did for our sins atone,
And we are saved by grace alone.

By grace! Oh, mark this word of promise
When thou art by thy sins opprest,
When Satan plagues thy troubled conscience,
And when thy heart is seeking rest.
What reason cannot comprehend
God by His grace to thee doth send.

By grace God's Son, our only Savior,
Came down to earth to bear our sin.
Was it because of thine own merit
That Jesus died thy soul to win?
Nay, it was grace, and grace alone,
That brought Him from His heavenly throne.

By grace! This ground of faith is certain;
So long as God is true, it stands.
What saints have penned by inspiration,
What in His Word our God commands,
What our whole faith must rest upon,
Is Grace alone, grace in His Son.

By grace to timid hearts that tremble,
In tribulation's furnace tried,--
By grace, despite all fear and trouble,
The Father's heart is open wide.
Where could I help and strength secure
If grace were not my anchor sure?
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