The memorial service for Matthus Hoelzel took place outdoors in the Japanese Garden at the Albuquerque Bio-Park on a brilliant October afternoon. On a deck over the large fish pond, two portraits of Matthus framed a table with an urn and a bowl of white flowers.
Matthus had attended a memorial service for a good friend here a little over a year ago. He told his mother Leslie that he’d like to have his held there, someday. She never expected he’d die in his sleep at the age of 35. His generous loving heart for others had failed for him.
The memorial program featured a picture of Matthus on the snow-covered banks of a stream kneeling next to two dogs. It reflected his love of camping, fishing, hunting, and snowboarding. His love of the outdoors was reflected in the restaurants where he worked as a chef.
On the stage over the pond, a portrait of him in his chef’s toque and jacket represented his culinary career. He apprenticed as a Demi-Chef/Sous Chef in Cologne, Germany and became an Executive Chef in 2003. He worked at the Jenny Lake Lodge in Grand Teton National Park, the Memphis Country Club, the Ranchers Club in Albuquerque, Randy’s and the Glacier Club in Durango, Colorado, and Sorrel River Ranch in Moab, Utah.
Reverend Jude with the Unity Spiritual Center opened the service saying, “We reaffirm our faith in life eternal, life beyond what we can see and understand.” She invited the assembled to pause and breathe, to recognize the moment and be fully present in this beautiful space.
“Remember his love and his spirit,” said Rev. Jude. “Passing through death, Matthus lives on and awaits the day he will reunite with those he loves and those who love him. There is comfort to be found as Matthus lives as love in your hearts.”
His mother Leslie got up to speak. She said that Matthus often played with pots and pans as a child. He learned his craft by mentoring with top chefs. His fifth grade teacher said that he’d be a great socialite. He loved having a good time and doing good things for good people. “He was my best buddy since the day he was born,” she said.
The assembled were invited to share their individual stories about Matthus. A stream of family and friends stood on stage and shared stories of a supportive, fun, talented young man who was a good friend. Letters were read from his brother and friends in Colorado.
One young man shared a story about how Matthus killed an elk while driving his pickup truck home from the Glacier Club in Durango. Matthus brought the elk to his house, where they gutted, skinned and hung it up to dry. After it was butchered, Matthus braised the meat and prepared an awesome dish. “It was the first time I’d ever had road kill,” he said.
His Uncle Doug got up to say Matthus came to play with his son when both were about two years old. The boys had a good time playing in the 700 acres of woods around the house. He was pleased how Matthus turned out and proud of his accomplishments.
“Time passes so quickly,” Uncle Doug said. “The older you get, the faster go the days and years. Treasure each day, and the blessings that you have.”
The outdoor setting had its benefits and drawbacks. It was a beautiful place and fortunately the weather was nice. A pair of geese flew overhead, honking musically as they passed. Then several Blue Angel jets flew by, drowning out the speakers. The electricity for the sound system had to be run by generator, and there were glitches with the microphone and playing recorded music. In a nice touch, attendees were given glow sticks to use if it was dark by the time the ceremony ended.
Reverend Jude closed with The Parable of Immortality by Henry Van Dyke:
I am standing upon the seashore.
A ship at my side spreads her white sails to the morning breeze
and starts for the blue ocean.
She is an object of beauty and strength,
and I stand and watch until at last she hangs
like a speck of white cloud
just where the sea and sky come down to mingle with each other.
Then someone at my side says,
“There she goes!”
Gone from my sight . . . that is all.
She is just as large in mast and hull and spar
as she was when she left my side
and just as able to bear her load of living freight
to the place of destination.
Her diminished size is in me, not in her.
And just at the moment
when someone at my side says,
“There she goes!”
there are other eyes watching her coming . . .
and other voices ready to take up the glad shout . . .
“Here she comes!”
Matthus Hoelzel’s life celebration continued at the home of friends. As Rev. Jude said at the closing – Namasté.