Celebration of the Life of
Tania Maea Hurd
May 30, 2008

Good Evening, and welcome to this Celebration of the Life of Tania Maea Hurd, the extraordinary and beloved woman we are honoring this evening. Her family is present and welcomes your thoughts and prayers in their time of deep loss.

May I express the family’s gratitude for your presence? It has been said that the closest bonds we will ever know are those of love and grief. This is one of the times that the presence of family and friends can make visible the love in the human heart that often can’t be expressed in any other way.
Your being here makes a difference, and beautifully reflects the value and significance of Tania's life.

Let us pause together for a moment and quietly, within our own hearts and in our own way, become aware that there is great peace and healing available to us this in nature's sanctuary. I invite you to open yourselves to the wellspring of strength, love and comfort which can sustain all of us right now as we witness, honor and pay tribute to
one special life, and the miracle of Life Itself as it moves through all of us right now. In this stillness let us consecrate this moment, knowing that the needs of the heart and spirit are met, as you give thanks for Tania in your life.

We will open this service with this ancient poem:

Every being in the universe
is an expression of Life itself.
We spring into existence,
unconscious, perfect, free,
living in a physical body,
lets circumstances compete it.
That is why every being
spontaneously honors Life.

Life gives birth to all beings,
nourishes them, maintains them,
cares for them, comforts them,
protects them,
takes them back to itself,
creating without possessing,
acting without expecting,
guiding without interfering.
That is why love of Life
is the very nature of things.


We have come here together this evening to honor Tania's Life. Yes, we are grieving, yes, we are still in shock, yes, we are filled with
loss and the emptiness in that place in our hearts that once was filled with this vibrant, loving, vital woman.

The purpose of this gathering this evening is to be together with one another as we feel all of these human emotions, but I want to invite you all to spend the next hour serving the
greater purpose of celebrating Tania's life, of remembering and revisiting and honoring the life she lived, as well as compassionately comforting each other in our time of loss.

A memorial service is essentially for the purpose of saying goodbye, of bringing to a conclusion this part of our earthly relationship with a beloved member of our family and friend who has moved on ahead of us. And, as with all partings, there may be questions that remain unanswered, feelings which might still be unexpressed, and, of course, the natural sadness that comes from being separated physically from anyone we love.

May I respectfully suggest, too, that there can also be the possibility of great peace and lightness in the awareness that the river of life that lives today in you and I continues to flow through Tania in ways that we can’t fully understand or know. It is at moments such as this that our faith in the unseen is called forth, comforting us with the knowledge that
the very essence of life is truly invisible.

This moment is for Tania, but it is also for you, her family and friends, to take the opportunity to pause and reflect on the great mystery of what we call death…and to consider that it is a curtain between the existence that we are conscious of, and the one that remains hidden until the moment arrives for that curtain to be raised.

It is natural to wish for things to remain as they are, or were, but such is not the higher order of things, nor is it the order of things in nature. The most consistent truth that can be found in nature is that it is constantly in movement, changing, ever releasing one form and assuming another. It is true in nature—it is equally true of our human experience.

Let us take a lesson from nature this afternoon, understanding that merely because the form of a tree, or landscape, or rose bush might change with the seasons, the invisible life, which is its source, remains.

Now I invite you to open your hearts and minds and allow your memories of Tania to rise to the surface as those things that made you appreciate and love her, made her dear to you, made you laugh, or filled you with admiration become available in this moment.

And, if the poignancy of remembering how cherished she was
and is to you happens to bring tears to your eyes, well, that's very natural.

To do justice to a person's life in just a few words is impossible, and such is certainly the case with this deeply loved woman, Tania Hurd.

Loving, caring, giving, dedicated, generous to a fault,

family oriented, dedicated to helping others, strong work

ethic, passionate and compassionate, fun, strong,

beautiful, great cook, delicious, old soul, these are just a few of the

words and phrases that begin to describe this true original of a woman

we are honoring today.

Born right here in Los Angeles, Tania arrived in life in a flurry of activity, a characteristic that followed her throughout her whole life. Her mom, Tetua brought to Tania her a rich Tahitian heritage, and her dad, Charlie, well, her Papa just loved her every day of her life.

She was a happy kid, lived with her mom, and when Charlie created a new family with Brigitta Tania was overjoyed to have two little sisters and a brother to complete her family. We all know that Tania loved to mother everyone, and she started practicing early, mothering her sisters especially as they grew up together.

She entered and graduated from North Hollywood High School which was a rough time for her. Unlike how high school is in the more enlightened 21st Century, Tania had a tough time finding her tribe because of her Tahitian blood.

On graduation day her life improved immensely when her dad gifted her with a beautiful green Camaro Convertible which he had lovingly restored with his own two hands.

Tania's life
instantly became a very happy one as she drove around in her new ride.

Tania's creative spirit informed her life from the very beginning, and after she graduated from high school she joined her dad and Brigitta in Lake Arrowhead, worked for a while, but had the strong desire to continue her education with a focus on the culinary arts.

Lots happened over the next few years, Tania worked at the Vintage Country Club and Elephant Bar, and every plate she presented was presented perfectly, with a flair!

Tania was always a beautiful human being, as a child, as a teenager, and, of course, as a woman.

So it's no surprise that she met and fell in love with Jeff Smith, and soon, more love entered her life in the form of a beautiful baby boy named Zachery.

As you know, Tania was a natural mother, and she was a wonderful mother to Zach. Her open heart of love just got bigger and bigger as she embraced and nourished this new life that had been given to her as a gift. The marriage didn't last, but her bond with her son just got stronger.

Time passed, life shifted, and soon Zach and Tania were living with her mom. Tania had attended the College of the Desert continuing to refine and expand her natural skills in the kitchen, to take care of her child, and to bring nourishment of the heart and stomach to all those that she loved, mom, Zach, her dad, sisters and brother, all received the outpouring from Tania's kitchen and heart.

Soon, her Papa and Brigitta had opened a small luxury hotel in Catalina and Tania and her sisters helped work there. And, in 1991, love again entered her life in the form of a handsome guy named Wayne. He had just been dissed by another woman, and, the way he tells it, Tania took pity on him and allowed him to dance with her.

There was magic in that dance, and it was a dance that lasted 17 years, and out of their union in 1993 Tania gave birth to her second son, Max. Of course, her loving heart just got bigger and bigger in 1993 with the arrival of this beautiful baby boy, whom she nurtured and cared for every day of his life.

When Max came into the world, his grandmother, Tetua, was very clear (as she was about most things) that she wanted a girl! She told Tania that if she had a boy, she was on her own.

When she took one look at Max she fell in love, and she and her grandson breathed the same air for many years.

Tania's circle of love was beginning to outgrow their living space in a condo in Burbank, and when grandma had a stroke and moved in with them, the walls were bursting.

They moved in to their present beautiful home where Tania lived, loved, and grew as she cared for her home and family.

Her own hunger for learning motivated her to continue her learning started at the College of the Desert and she enrolled at C-Sun, initially with the thought of majoring in nutrition, but eventually she decided to major in Food Science, become an expert on everything that happens to and with food.

By that time Max was enrolled in a Montessori school in Northridge, so both mom and son were learning at the same time. She continued to love Zach, too, who divided his time between his mom and his dad who lived in the San Diego area.

Tania had a strong work ethic, as you know, and there was a time before she joined the Burbank School District when she had not one, not two, but three jobs at the same time! She was not afraid of hard work.

Time passed, her sons grew, her family thrived under her constant caring and guiding and nurturing, and then one day, life directed Tania to the Burbank School System which offered her not only a position at John Burroughs High School in their Culinary Arts Program, but more importantly, an opportunity to expand her heart even wider as she embraced hundreds of students each year who became bigger and better human beings because of her guidance. They also learned a lot about food. She gave not only of her expertise, her time, lots of time, to those young people who were her students, but her real joy was in watching them grow and thrive. She carried her students in her heart. I know this myself, because I, along with them, had the privilege for five years of spending time each week with our Tania. She was a big part of my life too. Oh, it looked like a counseling session, I was in my assigned role as the therapist and she in her assigned role as the client, but not unlike her relationship with her students, ours was a relationship in the larger sense of what occurs when two kindred spirits share their lives with each other over time. Trust is built, that moves into a shared intimacy over time. So even though we all had our functions, counselor, client, student, teacher, with Tania her open heart expanded every relationship into something truly loving and special....not because of who we were, but because of what SHE gave.

Christine Wright accompanied by Kevin McCourt on the keyboard, for a musical tribute to Tania.

Personal Eulogies: Papa Charlie Hurd, Andra, Carla and Rian, Zachery and Max, Karen Eldridge, Laura Lambert, Axelle Maitere,

Dena Williams, her dear friend and teacher at John Burroughs will come up in a moment to introduce some of Tania's students to you. But first, she has asked me to read something to you about Friday, May 23rd.

"I would like to tell you about the Friday before Tania went on her journey.

Tania and I had been debating for a couple of weeks whether to attend Prom or not. Her students kept saying; “you have to come Miss Hurd.”

During lunch I asked her what her plans were after school and she said she had to go shopping for food for her family’s trip to Catalina. They planned on sailing at 4:00 and she wanted to have all of the food prepared and ready to go. She loved making special meals for her family and being on a boat did not stop her from having most delicious meals.

So we discussed her calling me when she was finished shopping and then we could make plans on what we could do.

She called about 4:30 apologizing for running late. Then she said to come over. I went to her house and we discussed dinner plans. Then she looked at me and said Dena, do you want to go to the prom and I replied “you want to go, don’t you? She said yes. That didn’t surprise me as she had only missed one prom since she started teaching. So I said well then we are going to the prom. I told her I didn’t have anything to wear. Of course she told me I could wear anything in her closet. After she helped choose something for me it dawned on me that this was just like girlfriends in high school exchanging clothes. We both giggled about that.

After getting ready she brought up how we needed to get dinner first and asked where should we go. I told her Tania, you’re the expert when it comes to restaurants so she should choose.

She decided on a restaurant that was just fabulous. We had a wonderful drink and appetizer followed by a perfect entrée she ordered for the two of us.

We laughed and told stories during dinner and she made sure to tell me how much she appreciated me and loved our friendship. She would always tell me that she didn’t know what she would do if we didn’t work together. I felt likewise. I told her that that is why she couldn’t retire until 20/20 when we both would be able to see straight again. The thing is Tania loved her students dearly and she loved her job. It made her feel complete.

As we left the restaurant she ran into one of her former students that was working at the restaurant that said; Miss Hurd, if I knew you were here I would have bought you drinks.

She visited with this student as we waited for our car.

Then we were off to prom. I could tell she was very excited that we decided to go. She grabbed 2 cameras and when we reached the prom at Universal City Walk Globe theatre we sat there for second in the car and I said Tania, now we are going to go just for an hour right? She said yes, give or take a couple of minutes. I know Tania’s time clock and that meant ant least an hour and a half. But that was Ok. At prom she ran around taking pictures of all of her students and people she worked with, giving hugs to everyone. If the picture wasn’t right she made them pose several times but nobody minded because they all loved Miss Hurd.

One hour give or take turned into us closing down prom. We stayed the rest of the night which was about 3 and 1/2 hours. Tania time struck again.

I thought about how her clock worked and it dawned on me that Tania’s clock was accurate with some exceptions. She didn’t factor in time for all of the friends, family and students she would run into. Those were like bonus minutes to her that didn’t count. And I’m sure as you have all have had conversations with Tania, you knew she was always listening to every word you said. And that was important to her. People were her first priority. And she knew a lot of people.

I once asked her about all of the little special things she would purchase, especially for her classroom. She explained to me that she needed to surround herself with things that made her happy. She did that with people too. She surrounded herself with people she loved and that loved her.

When we arrived at her house after prom we sat in her car laughing hysterically and telling stories. I remember saying how excited she was to ride in the helicopter the next morning to go and see her family. She told me she had always wanted to ride one but had never had the opportunity. As we talked she told me that we needed to create a scrapbook for all of our years teaching so we can look back and remember and laugh about all of these times. I agreed.

When I got out of the car she came to my side of the car and reached out and gave me a big, long “Tania hug.” And we said good night.

Tania never failed to tell me about how important I was to her.

I was fortunate to have Tania’s students this week as we all thought it would be easier on the students because they knew me and they knew what Tania and I meant to each other. It brought comfort to all of us.

After telling this story to her students, I had one last thing to say. I told them that Tania had a wonderful evening and that if she knew she was going to die the next morning she would have planned her day exactly the same way.

She would have spent time making a great meal for her family, had a fabulous dinner at a wonderful restaurant, spent time with a great friend and then gone to prom to see all of her students looking their best. She would have handed out her hugs unselfishly and photographed their important night to keep her memories of her students, the ones she loved so dearly, forever.

Tania would want for me to say one last thing, the most important thing, she loved her own children Zackary and Max with all of her heart and in many of our conversations revolved about the love she had for them and “Papa” too."

Dena introduces Tania's students Dellon Soderstrom and Kayla Gurley who pay tribute to Tania.
Kelsey Porter sings: 'There You'll Be'

There is a simple poem this beautiful moment
can remind us of:

“The temple bell stops,
But the song keeps coming
out of the flowers.”

Grief only comes in one size: Extra Large. It has been said that where there is sorrow, there is holy ground. This moment is unlike any you've experienced, for you are suspended in time between two worlds. And as you are poised between the world that was and the one that is opening up to you in the next moment, I wish to express my own thoughts and feelings about this Tania's life, and death.

I, like you, have been shocked by my loss. I like you, wish this tragedy would not have happened, that we could all go back to the way it was, with a vibrant Tania in my life.

I, like you, have asked the unanswerable question why?

All I can offer you is my belief that Tania's life had its own integrity, its own destiny, its own journey, and while it didn't fit my picture of how her life needed to be, I have taken some comfort in accepting a fact that we all must wrap ourselves around this evening, which is that
Tania's life belonged to her, and her alone. We all shared it, but her soul was in charge of her life, and how long she was with us.

There is another reality that lives very close, often invisibly, to the lives we live day to day. Tania has entered that reality. I invite you to join me as I stretch myself this week, and next week, and next year, to embrace this larger truth, as she embraced all of us, and life itself, while she was with us.

I would also like to draw your attention to an important question. I wonder, right now, what Tania might have wished for
you today. I gently invite you to open your hearts and minds a little more fully to her in this moment, and listen to the question carefully, and, from your own knowledge and appreciation of her, imagine what she might wish for you as you return to your lives.

Perhaps she would wish for you to attend lovingly to the task you have of expressing life in your own way, moment by moment, with vitality, humor, strength, generosity, hard work, passion and compassion, as she did.

Maybe she would encourage you to identify
your particular gift to the world, and be determined to share it, as she did, and do it with dedication, a passion for life, and a giving heart.

I suspect she would have insisted that you enjoy your life, in acknowledgement of its gifts to you, including deep love, great fun, and delicious food!

Perhaps she would wish for you to hear the urgency in these words of the poet, Maya Angelou:

"Lift up your eyes upon the day breaking for you.
Give birth again to the dream.
Women, children, men, take it into the palms of your hands.
Mold it into the shape of your most private need.

Sculpt it into the image of your most public self. Lift up your hearts.

Each new hour holds new chances,

For new beginnings."

And this, from the poet Mary Oliver, called
Wild Geese. This is for you.

Wild Geese

You do not have to be good.

You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert,
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.

Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting--
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

It is an important day when we stop to bear witness to a person's life and times among us, the difference her living and dying made among family and community, and to take the time to express your grief, your hope, your wonder and your memories. Thank you for being here for Tania and her family.

The famous poet Anonymous wrote this poem about the mystery that we call death.

I am standing on 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. I stand
and watch her until at length she hangs like a speck
of white cloud just where the sea and the sky come
down to mingle with each other.

Then..someone at my side says: “There, she’s gone!”

Gone where? Gone from my sight, that’s all. She
is just as large in mast and hull and spar as when she
left my side, and just as able to bear her load of
living freight to its place of destination.

Her diminished size is in me—not in her…and just
at that moment when someone at my side says:

“There, she’s gone”

there are other eyes watching her approach, and
other voices shouting:

“Here she comes!”

Please listen to beautiful expression of love and appreciation.

It's called:

I Will Always Give Thanks For You.

To this sacred place I come, drawn by the eternal ties that bind my soul to the soul of my beloved.

Death has separated us.

You are no longer at my side to share the beauty of the passing moment.

I cannot look to you to lighten my burdens, to lend me your strength, your wisdom, your faith.

And yet what you mean to me does not wither or fade.

For a time we touched hands and hearts, still your voice abides with me, still your tender glance remains a joy to me.

For you are a part of me forever, something of you has become a deathless song upon my lips.

And so beyond the ache that tells how much I miss you,
a deeper thought compels: we were together.

I hold you still in mind, and give thanks for life and love.

The happiness that was, the memories that do not fade, are a gift that cannot be lost.

You continue to bless my days and years.

I will always give thanks for you.

Chaim Stern

And as we close today's tribute to Tania this evening, let us do so with the memory of her loving, spirit that graced your lives.

Let you feel blessed and truly fortunate that this special woman was part of your life, and know that her continued journey is one of richness, meaning and love.

Neil Steven announcement about website, Wayne requests prayers for
those injured.

And finally, this poem...

For Just a Moment, by Brenda Penepent

For just a moment
I'm sure I saw
a flicker of light ahead.
Perhaps it was your smile.
Though past now, remembered,
in my heart
like the small sound of a butterfly passing by.
No night is so dark
that can not be brightened
with memories of you.
Raindrops carry along
your blessings from heaven
to wash away my tears,
and bring me hope anew.

So, this evening, as you leave this place today, leave in thanksgiving, not regret. May you return once again into your own lives with renewed faith. May Tania's memory remain with you always, and inspire and bless your days and nights forever.

And, as we close this ceremony honoring Tania, in recognition of all that she has given to you, and to Life itself, there might be one more thing that you can do for her in response to all that he has given to you.

In this still moment, within your own hearts, send a personal blessing to her.

It might go something like this:

"My friend, many days have passed now since you left your body. Now know the truth as it is and go on, taking refuge in the vastness of your original nature. Know that you are well guided by your compassion and love, by your dedication to truth and beauty.

Know that we fully embrace you in this moment, we also release you to your greater journey, asking only that you always remember: you are loved, you are the essence of all things, you are the light."

The spirit freed is the memory I invite you take with you this afternoon. God's speed to Tania, and many blessings to you.

-Rev. Marsha Mendizza