Memorial Service Readings

My Cousins

Dana, Brian & Greg Demas; Michael, Tyler & Gunnar McClellan; Ashlen & Garrett Nichols; Alexi, Gabriella & Sophia Nichols; Merrick & Mason Nichols

There is a picture on all of our programs, showing Matthew getting out of the ocean last summer. The ocean is the Aegean Sea, and he is standing on the Isle of Patmos. There were six others with Matthew when the picture was taken: his Uncle Bob, his Aunt Stephanie, his Aunt Lesley, his cousin Tyler, and our friends Kyle and Jenny. For some twenty-one-year-olds, travelling with an uncle, two aunts, a cousin, and a couple in their thirties might have been awkward. For Matthew, it was joyous and seamless. He was with family. As Nichols cousins, our lives are, and have always been, intertwined, and our experience of family has always been more than our parents and siblings.

 

We are the children of the seven Greek kids of Bud and Bea Nichols of West Covina, California. They are the children of the Nicopoulos and Vosiniotis families of Chicago. Their parents came through Ellis Island from the Peloponnesus. In Matthew, and in the rest of us, the Old World has not yet fully let go. By land, one reaches the Peloponnesus through the Isthmus of Corinth. In a letter to those Corinthians, Paul wrote, “These three remain, faith, hope and love, and the greatest of these is love.”

Our cousin Matthew carried all three of these, but he was perhaps the greatest at showing love. He showed it to each of us in different ways. He loved Lexi by being her partner in crime, her teammate in swordfights against her older cousins, by picking blackberries, making forts, and watching forbidden James Bond movies.

 

Matthew loved Gabriella by calling her ‘Goombers’, and letting her call him ‘Mafoose’. He loved her by being tough in front of the boys, but by making sure she wasn’t really hurt when she got hit by a snowball, and by escorting her to pet Aunt Beatrice’s Rottweiler so that Uncle Jimmy would allow it.

 

Matthew loved Sophia by watching Mulan with her on the couch, even though it was the seventh time that day she had already watched it. He loved Sophia by having a gentle soul, by talking with her, not at her, and by being the older brother she never had.

 

Matthew loved Ashlen by his kindness, by being a silly blond boy running up and down Lark Hill, and by being, in her words “sweet Matthew.”

 

Matthew loved Garrett by learning to snowboard with him, by exploring the woods around Lake Arrowhead in carefree days of childhood, and in recent years through his intelligence, his conversation and his insights.

 

Matthew loved his Chicago cousins with the vigor that comes from absence making the heart grow fonder. He loved Brian and Gregory with a face that always lit up in their presence, and by making delusional challenges to their manhood. It takes a special kind of kid to look at a six foot five Midwest hockey player, or for that matter, Gregory Demas, and say, “I will crush you.”

 

Matthew loved Dana by being always present, by loving to talk, loving to listen, and by having understanding well beyond his years.

 

Matthew loved my brothers, Tyler and Gunnar. Christmas morning was not complete until Matthew and Taylor had come over to show us their new soldiers, run the Lionel trains around the tree, play knee football, and then eventually, real football. And with time, the little blonde boys in the Mariners Christian School backpacks grew up, and it was the McClellan brothers having a hard time keeping up with the CIF sprinter from Mater Dei. Matthew loved my brothers by engaging in countless and endless conversations, talking with growing strength and confidence over the years. Matthew loved to compete, physically and with words, but he also just loved being together.

 

Matthew showed me his love by showing up and being my friend in spite of the 12 years that separated us. I have spent many nights in recent years, talking about life with him, with Taylor, and often with their friends, in my garden. We always seem about to solve major world problems in that garden, but we never quite get there.

We also bonded over our love of war games, and we played many over the years. I could fill up pages writing about them. Matthew and I were scheduled to play a board game this past Saturday. We had a good amount of banter about it two weeks ago on Christmas Eve. As usual, Matthew looked good while he was talking a bit of trash to his older cousin, with slicked hair, a fresh shave, shiny new shoes, and pair of tapered slacks.

 

We talked about the books Matthew was reading. He told me he was up to a book a week. I told him he should read bigger books. Matthew told me I shouldn’t use long books as an excuse for reading slowly. He’s probably right.

 

After the banter and some great food, we all gathered for the annual Nichols Family Christmas Pageant, which had lain dormant for a few years. All of the seven Nichols siblings were there – Paula, Stephanie, Lesley, George, Jimmy, Beatrice and Bobby. Uncle George and all of the cousins present were allocated our parts in the pageant between being Angels, Wisemen, Shepherds, Joseph, the Innkeeper, the Donkey and all the rest. Matthew was a wiseman.

Matthew Nichols and Cousins

Psalm 46:10

Be still, and know that I am God.

 

Psalm 28:7

The Lord is my strength and shield.

    I trust him with all my heart.

He helps me, and my heart is filled with joy.

 

John 11:25-26

Jesus told her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying.

 

Everyone who lives in me and believes in me will never ever die.

 

John 14:2-3

There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am.

 

2 Corinthians 5:1

For we know that when this earthly tent we live in is taken down, we will have a house in heaven, an eternal body made for us by God himself and not by human hands.

 

Psalm 34:18

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted;
    he rescues those whose spirits are crushed.

 

Psalm 42:5-6

Why am I discouraged?

    Why is my heart so sad?

I will put my hope in God!

    I will praise him again—

    my Savior and my God!

 

Psalm 23:4

Even when I walk

    through the darkest valley,

I will not be afraid,

    for you are close beside me.

Your rod and your staff

    protect and comfort me.

 

Revelation 14:13

And I heard a voice from heaven saying, “Write this down: Blessed are those who die in the Lord from now on. Yes, says the Spirit, they are blessed indeed, for they will rest from their hard work; for their good deeds follow them!”

 

Revelation 7:17

For the Lamb on the throne

     will be their Shepherd.

He will lead them to springs of life-giving water.

     And God will wipe every tear from their eyes.

Matthew Nichols and Cousins

Aunt Renee had brought a bin full of costumes. And as she had always done, she interspersed Christmas Carols in the performance. So with Yia Yia Bee, and all of the family around her, we sang Oh Come All Ye Faithful, Silent Night, Hark the Herald Angels Sing, and Joy to the World. It was one of life’s glittering moments. As we were leaving, some of the cousins said it might have been the best Christmas Eve we ever had. That evening gains even more gravity now.

 

There is no easy way to reconcile the loss of someone with so much ahead of them – with so much potential, so much talent, so much life. But when we gather all of the people that Matthew has touched, as we have done here today, we honor him.

 

We can be grateful for our time with him. I am grateful that he was able to know and spend time with his youngest cousins, Bobby and Deena’s sons, Merrick and Mason. I am grateful that he knew my wife, Samantha, my daughter, Catherine, and the other little ones of the next generation – Gunnar and Diana’s Scarlet, and Brian and Amanda’s Caroline and Cole.

 

As I think about Matthew in the days, the months, or the years that will separate us from our reunion on the other side of this life, I will miss him profoundly. We all will. Because we love him.

"The Krew"

JD Root, Grant Johnson, Derek Campbell, Casey Conners, Christian Grant, Fabio Cuetara, Ethan Ayres, Michael Spiezia, Grant Bissell, Jeff Bumb, Tommy Patten, Taylan Alpan, Chad Ludwig, Matt Kincheloe

Read by Derek

One day at lunch about a month or so ago Matt said something to us that we will never forget. He said, “guys…do you know what I just realized…” one of us replies, “that this is our fifth time eating In ‘n Out in the last two days.” Although he agreed, he laughs and says “no, do you realize we are all still best friends.” We all faintly nod and look at each other and say, “yeah so”. He goes, “This means were all going to be best friends for the rest of our lives. If we are able to stay this close of friends for this long. There’s no way we’re all not going to be best friends forever.” This moment just shows the immense compassion and care he had for all of us as a whole. He was able to highlight things in life that usually went unnoticed. His wholesome heart opened our eyes to simple joys in life that sometimes we took for granted. Matthew Nichols held a power amongst his friends. A unique instrumental power that we all grew to look up to. He embodied this positive way of life that was foreign to all of us. He saw life not as a structured path to death, but as an opportunity to live. This unique influential sway that he evoked came directly from the way he continually made an effort to better his life and ours, as a whole. People are not interested in normal; people are not attracted to average. People are interested in those who break norms and those who surpass average. Our generation is so accustom to normal. Normal is the path that is paved by ones before us. Go to school, get a job, get married, have kids. Matt showed us that the little things in life that potentially veer away from the norm are the most important. This is what intrigued us about matt, longing to know what all those things were. Whether it was the arbitrary astronomy lessons he gave Chad in the Jacuzzi, the complex synopsis’s of novels he was reading about to Ethan over a cup of coffee, The endless advice he gave to spiezia about ambition and purpose as he prepared to graduate college or his infamous preaching’s to Fabio and Tommy saying, “when you realize knowledge is power, you’ll be able to conquer the world.” Everything Matt did, or said, he did or said for a reason. 

Read by Casey

Matthew coined a new saying “Carpe Dime,” or seize the dime, meaning he would never let a day go to waste. Not only was Matthew unique, but he was fearless. He never cared about what others thought of him. He just sought out to live his life to the fullest and complete whatever his mission at hand was; whether it was educating himself, treating his body as an extension of God, or the simple task of brightening the day for everybody around him. He would have this look in his eye where no obstacle was going to get in the way of his task. He had a plan, and nothing was going to stop him. Most importantly, he had an ultimate plan of helping those around him and being there for whatever one would need. Since college had started, it became much more difficult for each of us to hangout with one another since time was constrained. Matthew always cherished the moment and during school breaks Matt was the one who made it a priority. With Matthew, it didn’t matter if you had seen him in months or years, he made it feel like it was just yesterday. That was his ultimate mission in life to bring everyone comfort with his wits and intriguing conversations. Our group of friends call ourselves “the Krew.” When looking at each member of the krew, I can see the influence Matthew had on each one of us. Not only did he influence us, but he was a masterpiece, a collection of the best traits from each individual of the krew.

Read by Christian

Whether it was his futile attempts to naming him self King Lionitis, a spontaneous trip to San Francisco, or sitting at a coffee shop discussing his new favorite book or stock, Matthew always knew what to say, and always knew how to bring a smile to all our faces. Today we see the true influence that matt had on every single one of us. Although some may not have been able to see him recently, he touched all of us in a very unique way that has immortalized him in our minds and hearts. Besides being a great person matt was most importantly the best friend you could possibly ask for. Whether you needed serious advice or simply a friend to go down to emerald bay with you, Matt was always the first to provide his company, and he brought a sense of joy everywhere we went. He truly lived his life to the fullest. Above all else, Matthew’s ambition was unquestionable. He knew exactly what he wanted to accomplish, and he would not let anything or anyone hold him back. Some might even call him stubborn. He was the one person that we could all truly talk with about pressing world issues, and him having a strong opinion on the topic, was always a certainty. His insight was unmatched. He wanted to use both his mind and his heart to make a difference in this world, and although his life was short lived, I undoubtedly know that he did just that. The hardest part is realizing how much life he still had in front of him. How many people he would of certainly touched, and how he would have impacted all of our day-to-day lives. We will never forget the moments we all spent together. We will never forget your movie impersonations; we will never forget the obscure topics you loved so much. I know that you will always be looking over us all with your cowboy boots on and that contagious smirk that you always bore on your face. Enjoy yourself, my friend, and make heaven as unique a place as you made this earth. We love you and most certainly always remember you. 

Lori Martin  |  "Cool Aunt Lori"

Matthew to know and love you was my honor.

 

Together we created a lifetime full of unforgettable memories. Anyone who knows me heard endless stories about you and how much you meant to me in my life. Not a day went by, that I didn’t share another “special” Matthew story.

 

When you injured your leg in September, I thought at the time it was a setback but, it was a gift. The last 100 days were a blessing. When we left American Hustle, you turned to me and said “wow Aunt Lori that scene with Christian Bale comb over” was the best movie scene ever.

 

In your early years, you used to entertain us all with your quick costume changes Commando man, Spiderman and when you on your own interviewed and secured a paid Internship at Ameritrade I was so proud of you! You were so happy.  Businessmen need clothes and together with your Nana and Papa we happily shopped for your outfits. Recently, I forgot something at the house and walked into the stereo BLARING I thought oops, I might of walked in on something, until I heard you call for me, Aunt Lori, Aunt Lori come up here… and there you were tissue everywhere, Jcrew bags on the floor you were trying on all your clothes and asking me to comment on the length, which shirt went with what pant.  You were so excited and I was so excited for you.

 

When I left XMAS Day you gave me a HUG I will never forget. The tightest hug ever and I hugged you right back. I've got you Matthew. During the vigil the other night, I was taken aback by all of your friends stories about how you stood out from the crowd, always coming to the aid of others with inspiration and positive affirmation(s) and yet, I thought you were only my “special Matthew” but, you were extraordinarily special to everyone.  

 

Today, I was thinking about how best to honor you and how I can help your friends continue on and what came to mind was just to  think “What would Matthew do?” By example you helped each and every one of us be the better man or woman because you were always the better man.

 

Matthew you brought so much inspiration, love and joy to all of us. I was thrilled to watch the man you became. I will miss you every day of my life and will continue to love you every day of my life.

 

Love, Aunt Lori

To Matthew  |  From Papa

Matthew, how fortunate I was to have had the last couple of months to spend quality time with you. Hours of conversation(s) regarding our passion for astronomy, finance, sports cars, how I enjoyed our conversations.

 

One of my favorite past times was playing poker and having you beat me! I enjoyed every minute of losing my chips to you…

 

You were very appreciative and a caring young man. Nana and I enjoyed hosting you and your friends at The BEACH CLUB where you read, played paddle tennis and went on fun bike rides.

 

I was glad I could share my wisdom and create lasting memories for us which I will keep forever.

 

I will miss you Matthew

Love Papa

To Matthew  |  From Nana

Matthew, how lucky I was to love you for 22 years. You were the joy of my life. I was so very proud of you.

 

We went to many places together, our trip to New York and danced in Fort Worth.

 

We spent time together at the beach and most recently celebrated your BDAY with Mike and Lisa.

 

You knew how much I loved You.

 

Love always and forever,

Your NANA

Bob McClellan  |  Uncle Bob

I am Matthew and Taylor’s Uncle Bob. My wife Stephanie, one of George’s four sisters, and I have three boys, Michael, Tyler and Gunnar who are like older brothers to Taylor and Matthew. As families we have skiied together, body surfed together, prayed together, watched and cheered each of them on at school plays and sporting events too numerous to count. George and I had many nights of sitting after the boys had gone out with friends for the evening wondering if they would be safe, wondering if we were doing this parenting-thing right, wanting little more than to be good Dads.

 

George, you have been a very good Dad.

 

Today we weep together…  We weep for those things that we looked forward to doing with Matthew but won’t ever do, for things we might have done differently, each of us can count many of those. We weep for the loss of our friend, or our family member, we weep for Matthew’s grandparents, his aunts and uncles and cousins,

and for George, Renee and Taylor and our weeping is OK.  Our God is accepting of our painful cries, and is big enough to comfort us. Scripture tells us in the Book of John that “Jesus wept” when confronted with the weeping of Mary over the death of Lazarus.

 

We are not however to get stuck in our weeping. Because of our faith we can also rejoice today.  We rejoice in knowing that we worship a God who does not shy away from our questions, who meets us right where we are.  A God who promised: “I am the resurrection and the life, He who believes in me will live, even though he dies.”

 

We rejoice today that the Matthew we love, the one who spent a week with us on the Island of Patmos in August, who, while there, played chess until dawn with his cousin, who welcomed in the morning from the patio where he fell asleep counting a universe full of stars-just because he could, who tried again and again with futility to beat me in swimming races.

 

The one who tried-on four or five careers, like some people try on clothes, on consecutive nights to see which one might work best with the girls he and Tyler had set eyes on that evening (we sometimes rehearsed those careers with him at lunch discussing key terms, etc). He was a cardiologist (had to ask Aunt Stephanie for the right terms); he was an astronomer, though in the heat of “battle” said he was an astrologer; he finally settled on being an entrepreneur because he had less to remember; his age ranged from 24-28 depending… We can rejoice that Matthew knew the living God and that he “Believed” and that he is with the Lord today.

 

Let me close with a few of the words from one of my favorite worship songs - “He is Lord,” (I will spare you listening to me sing and simply read them):

            He’s the light in the darkness,

            He’s the calm in the storm

            He’s the hope of the righteous;

            He is Lord!                             

 

We love you Matthew!

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