Honoring the memory of pets at Easter

It’s been fifteen years since that Easter Sunday when I burst into tears at the sight of lilies surrounding the altar.  I was standing at the back of the church, looking over the crowded pews for a place to sit, and there were those dozens of lilies, each one representing the loss of a loved one. Tears started rolling down my cheeks. Clutching my bulletin, I rushed past the startled ushers and left the church, my head down, fumbling in my purse for my sun glasses to hide the tears. After that, it was a long time before I could get through a church service without crying. Even now, sometimes the music will bring tears. I’ve learned to have a tissue in my purse. I’ve learned also that it’s okay to honor the memory of a pet in church. That Easter fifteen years ago, I had lost Marmaduke and Molly just a few months before. I kept my feelings to myself, my sadness bottled up, thinking no one would understand. In the years since then, their loss has taken me on a whole new journey as I delve deeper into the human-animal bond and its spiritual meaning. The last few years, each time the notice has appeared in the church bulletin to buy Easter lilies, I have wanted to buy one in memory of my dogs. But I have hesitated. What if the church said no, you can only list a person, we can’t have everyone listing Fluffy and Fido. This year, it was my sweet father who, at 95 years old, doesn’t worry about what people will think. After my beautiful spaniel Emily died in February, he said he would like to buy an Easter lily in memory of her, and one in memory of Byron, who died in 2007. I filled out the order form “In memory of Byron and Emily Hunt” and sent it in.

On Easter Sunday, I knew it would be hard to see their names printed in the bulletin. It made a very private loss public somehow. As the music began I had to pull the tissue out of my purse. But I focused on the beautiful lilies at the altar, and all the love they represented. And I noticed a few other pet’s names in the bulletin, “Hobo” and “Murph.” It was comforting.

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