Memorial Service for Todd Ouida

Central Unitarian Church
 Paramus, New Jersey
30 September 2001

Memorial Service
Todd Joseph Ouida
(18 May 1976 — 11 September 2001)

Prelude                                David Maiullo

    Come, let us be one now
    as we open our hearts to mourning, to memory, and to celebration.
    Let us be one now
    in opening our hearts
    to the spirit of holiness,
    that hallows all life.
    Eternal God, known by many names,
    O Thou Spirit of Life
    that creates all, sustains all, and redeems all  
    bless this time and these people,
    as we gather to bear witness
    to a life lived with honor, courage, and love;
    the worthy life of a worthy man.

May peace be upon this house and all who enter herein.

Chalice & Candle Lighting:    Helen Morik & Karen Rancourt
    As is the custom of our faith tradition, we open this sacred time with the lighting of our congregation’s chalice.
    The flame we light is an ancient symbol of transformation
    and the chalice that holds it is a symbol of service.
    Let this light burn in our house of worship
    and in our hearts
    reminding us that a life of love and service
    will change us
    and lead our hearts to peace.

    We also light a candle of remembrance for Todd Joseph Ouida, whose loss we mourn and whose life we have gathered to honor and celebrate.  In lighting this candle, we invoke his memory into our midst and we invite his spirit into our hearts.  For truly he is with us still.  “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1:5)

Welcome:                                [Rev. Osterman]
    Friends, we gather this afternoon under the shadow of a huge national tragedy.  Yet we gather this afternoon to acknowledge a huge personal tragedy.  We have set aside this time in our lives to remember and to celebrate the worth, meaning, and significance of the life of Todd Joseph Ouida.  Beloved son, grandson, brother, cousin, nephew, uncle, friend, colleague, and neighbor . . . he was taken from us too soon and his passing has forever marked the lives of all those who knew and loved him best.  All of you.

    To lose even one life from our community is to lose too many.  To lose the life of one who is blossoming in the fullness of early manhood, promising to burst forth into full flower and be still a richer blessing upon the world, is to lose a life far too soon.

    It is fitting and proper to lament all we have lost.  This is as it should be.  Sometimes, however, that lament then slips into a profound melancholy, and at times bitter resentment, as we sit with the depth and pain of our loss.

    I say to you today , — having lived our lament — it is the nobler course, the more faithful response, to commit ourselves to preserving the joyful memories of this beloved man and by being grateful for his blessing upon our lives.  Do not become trapped in what will not be; draw strength and comfort from what has been and let those memories sustain.  Todd lived life deeply, and he would want you all to live your lives more fully, with still greater joy in every blessing, inspired in your pursuit of peace, love, and happiness by his memory.

    So today let us honor him, and celebrate his memory deep into our hearts.

Special Music:    “Amazing Grace,” sung by David Cryer

Reading:    Lamentations 1:1, 2:21-22      Andrea Ouida

How doth the city sit solitary that was full of people!
How has she become as a widow,
    she that was great among the nations!
And princess among the provinces
    how is she become tributary.

The young and the old lie on the ground in the streets;
my virgins and my young men
    are fallen by the sword;
Thou hast slain them in the day of thine anger,
    thou has killed and not pitied.
Thou hast called as in a solemn day
    my terrors round about;
so that on the day of the Lord’s anger
    none escaped or remained;
those that I have swaddled and brought up
    have mine enemy consumed.

Eulogy                                Rev. Osterman
    Friends, all across New Jersey and New York — in fact all across this nation and world — good people, such as you, have gathered in similar, somber ceremonies to one-by-one mark the victims of a truly terrible tragedy that still defies our understanding.  It seems impossible to imagine now that we might someday make some sense, or meaning, out of the catastrophic attack on Manhattan and Washington which stole from our nation so much.  And yet this is the task that lies before us in the months and years to come.

    It is terrible enough to bid farewell to a loved after they have lived a good, long life.  There is some logic in watching a beloved older family member fade into the sunset of life and then pass on.  We can bear that with dignity because that is the proper order of life.

    However, it tears at our very souls to say farewell to one so young, so many so young.  Because the future has been stolen from Todd, and all the victims of September 11th . . . and a piece of our own future has been stolen as well.  Your dreams of what would be perhaps included Todd — perhaps included many who are now gone — and so we will have to make new dreams in the place of the old.

    You will hear, in a few minutes the tributes of people who knew Todd at every turn in life.  Knew him and loved him.  You will hear of Todd living his whole life just down the street in River Edge; Todd as the child in elementary school; Todd as a child in the Religious Education program of this church; Todd as a student and student athlete at River Dell High; Todd as proud graduate of the University of Michigan with a degree in Psychology; Todd as a successful professional at Cantor Fitzgerald in Manhattan; a man who made his own career there and excelled, aided by his brother Jordan in getting an opportunity and then making the most of that opportunity on his own terms.
    But this is the outside of his life.  Listen for the inside of Todd.  Todd beloved by his family for a thousand small, wondrous expressions of love.  Todd, patient and attentive to his sister during an uncomfortable pregnancy.  Todd, adored godfather to his, now, one-year old niece, Ashley; Todd the attentive grandson — always sweet, thoughtful, and wonderful to his grandparents.  Todd the treasured son.  Listen for the Todd with a deep well of love in his heart for his family, his friends, and for life.

    But Todd did not become the man you knew by sailing through life unchallenged and untroubled.  No.  Todd was a young man tempered into strength through adversity from a young age; an adversity that, even as a child, he met bravely and head on.  An adversity that he overcame, and then turned into still greater strength and depth of character.  Listen for Todd, whose life revealed a consistent courage.

    And it strikes me — knowing the story of that terrible day — that to the very end, Todd was true to himself.  After the first plane hit that tower, he called his mother to reassure her.  He told her,“I’m alright,” and he allowed himself — in that moment — to deceive her into a sense of comfort, to protect her from the terror, by allowing her to believe that her beloved Herb was known to be alright as well.  And then he was lost to us.  But in that act, friends, I say to you, ‘This was Todd at his truest:  courageous in the face of adversity; loving to the very end.’

    And so, let us mourn Todd’s loss, but let us not become lost in mourning.  Because here was a well-lived life.  A life worth celebrating, and friends, I say a life worth learning from.  If we can learn something of love and courage from Todd, if his passing has lifted up for us a beacon that we can look to for inspiration in leading our own lives of courage, strength, and love — then he has not stopped blessing us, even though he be beyond our sight.

    For I truly believe that Todd is profoundly at peace now — a peace that we do not yet know.  He is beyond worry and fear, beyond pain and suffering, beyond the limitations and lamentations of this life.  I believe that he is one with the mysterious stillness that is the heart of all creation.  That he has achieved the peace that passes all understanding.  As the poet said, “Lo, he has slipped the surly bonds of earth, stretched out his hand and touched the face of God.”  

    And so with his memory in our hearts, let us turn to the future, for that is ours to build.  If we carry Todd’s memory into the future with us, if we dwell on the best of what has been, if we allow his life to inspire our own, then he will indeed be with us in that bright future which we are called to build together.  Todd will only ever be as far from us as our hearts allow him to be.  With this in mind, let our moments to the dead be the lives we build and the love we share in remembrance of all that has passed away from us.  AMEN.

Remembrances of Todd
    Jordan Ouida
    Joseph Venn
    Dr. Nat Donson

Musical Interlude:

Remembrances of Todd
    Thomas Twiggs
    Alex Morik

Reading:  read by Matthew Rotando

    And now, recognizing that there are many ways to know and name that which is sacred and holy, let each of us, according to our own understandings, focus our attention as we enter into a mood of meditation, an inner place of peace and prayer.

    Eternal God, whom we know as Love,
    the love that will not let us go.
    We gather in gratitude, sorrow, and faith.
We are grateful for having been blessing by Todd’s presence in our lives;
    we know we are richer for his time with us,
    and this is a wealth that can never be taken away from us.
    We are deeply saddened that a life so full of goodness and promise
    could be lost so suddenly, and so soon;
    we miss him.
    And yet we have faith.
    We have faith that his short, bright life
    has touched us so deeply that his blessing upon us will endure,
    our memory of him will endure,
    and the lives we build, from this day forward,
    will be the enduring memorials to this good man.

[Yours, Rabindranath Tagore]
    [O God] Yours is the light that breaks forth from the dark, and the good that sprouts from the deft heart of strife.
    Yours is the house that opens upon the world, and the love that calls to the battlefield.
    Yours is the gift that still is a gain when everything is a loss, and the life that flows through the caverns of death.
    Yours is the heaven that lies in the common dust, and You are there for me; You are there for all.            

Silence . . . Amen.

Hymn #123    “Spirit of Life”

Reading:    Ecclesiastes 3:1-8
    To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
A time to be born, and a time to die;
    a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
A time to kill, and a time to heal;
    a time to break down, and a time to build up;
A time to weep, and a time to laugh;
    a time to mourn, and time to dance;
A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
    a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to get, and a time to lose;
    a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
A time to rend and a time to sew;
    a time to keep silence, and a time to speak,
A time to love, and a time to hate;
    a time of war, and a time of peace.  

Musical Interlude:    “America the Beautiful,” sung by David Cryer

    As we go forth from this time together, let us carry with us Todd’s memory in our hearts . . . and let us also carry away in our hearts these words of Paul’s words to the Philippians (4:8):
    Whatever is true,
    whatever is honorable,
    whatever is just,
    whatever is pure,
    whatever is lovely,
    whatever is gracious,
    if there is any excellence,
    if there is anything worthy of praise,
    think about these things.
And as you do, may you remember Todd.               

Extinguishing the Chalice:
    This chalice community we now extinguish to mark the end of this hallowed time together.
    The candle of remembrance shall burn on, just as Todd’s memory will burn on in our hearts, and as his spirit will continue to shine forth in our midst.
    May the peace that passes understanding,
    the peace of God,
    go with you and abide with you
    this day and all the days of your lives.