For many of us, companion animals are an integral part of the family; we take them on vacations, care for their every need and, in turn, they share their boundless affection and comfort with us. So it is not surprising that some people may want to keep their beloved companion close even after they pass, or keep them spiritually safe when they are living.
Recently, the Christ Episcopal Church in Portsmouth, NH offered a touching Blessing of the Animals service, which allowed families to bring their beloved pets or representations of them to be blessed. The blessing is not limited to the more common domestic animals such as cats and dogs; snakes, turtles and lizards are equally as welcome to join the festivities and get their blessing. This blessing comes along with the opening of a special Pet Memorial Garden where loose interment of pet ashes may take place, watched over by the statue of St. Francis, known for his love of animals.
We have touched on the issue of pet burials on this blog before—some people opt to be buried with their pet, when possible, others feel that an animal has no place in a proper burial. There is certainly discussion and opinions on both sides. However, this touching ceremony and dedication can easily strike a chord with any pet owner. Forget about controversy, Christ Episcopal Church is saying that all life is important, all of our loved ones deserve to be remembered and treasured, whether they are four-legged or no legged. This is a philosophy we can get behind!
Both the blessing ceremony and the Pet Memorial Garden offer an excellent teaching opportunity for young people. The lesson may be kindness, compassion and the sharing of it with those in our care; or it may just be a chance to talk about grief and having a special place to go to say goodbye or reconnect with loved ones who have passed.
Most importantly, this is another great way to build community within the parish, to welcome an even broader range of people to the communal fold.
What do you think? Is this a ceremony that you would find useful? Would your children enjoy sharing such a special day with their pets and parents? Let us know in the comments section!