This Sunday marked the heartfelt dedication of a new space at All Souls Unitarian Church, designed with thought and love by Dennis Neill and John Southard. The Pet Memorial, nestled within the church’s garden, is meant to be a place of reflection and remembrance for our beloved pets.
Rejuvenating A Meaningful Garden
In March of this year, Dennis said he walked out to the garden with the garden team ready to renovate the space that has so much meaning to him. “They had been neglected over the last few years, and it’s very important to me because one of our dear friends, his ashes are here, and we placed those ashes here in 2006.” It was during this work with the garden team that they had the idea to use the garden as a space to remember not only human family members, but pets as well.
Recognizing Our Pet Family
John, expressing a feeling many pet parents share, said, “We are huge, huge, animal lovers. Our fur babies are certainly family members, much beloved family members.” Dennis added, “Our love of pets crosses every generation. Youth, the middle-aged, the old. Pets are important to all our lives.” These thoughts and feelings sparked the initial idea to create a space in the garden to honor and remember more than just our human family. At the dedication of the pet memorial, Senior Reverand Marlin Lavanhar emphasized those feelings saying, “The grief we feel at the loss of a pet follows all the same contours of the loss of any other life…whether they be winged, furry, or scaled, the love is real.”
Keeping Their Memories Alive
“We want people to be able to honor all their pets, whether it’s a bird, a fish, a lizard,” Dennis said. One way they plan to do that is with the pet memorial journal. This allows the community to write down their thoughts and memories of their lost pets. They can even provide a picture to Dennis that can be included in the journal. Their vision for the garden is that it becomes a space where people of all ages can connect, share stories, and find comfort in mutual understanding and shared experiences of love and loss. “We recognize it’s not just our human friends that are so important to us, but our animal friends,” Dennis said. “John and I are so glad to add this to this wonderful garden.”