"Most memorials I conduct include a period of silence, permitting participants to be alone with their thoughts, as well as a brief time for sharing, when those present are invited to recall their best and most loving memories. If you would like to offer a eulogy, this is the time. A reading at the beginning of the service and a prayer at the end can open and close such simple ceremonies, invoking a sense of reverence and gratitude and setting apart these few minutes of affectionate tribute as sacred time. You will find words here for both ingathering and benediction. A typical ceremony might include the following elements:
"• Centering Ourselves. Begin with a meditation that helps you to connect with the source of your own being. Some might choose a passage from Saint Francis, while others may select one from the Bhagavad Gita or from another spiritual tradition represented here. Turn to whatever truth you find life-giving and dependable. Whether you name the object of your faith God, the Great Spirit, or Mother Earth, this reality provides the context in which all creatures live and breathe and holds out the promise of renewal.
"• Acknowledging Our Loss. Give expression to the sorrow that accompanies the death of a beloved companion. Name your pain. Several readings included here convey the mood of bleakness and desolation that grief can bring. A ceremony of remembrance should be an occasion when we have permission to weep and vent our sadness.
"• Honoring Our Memories. While a memorial service offers a chance to mourn, it should also offer the opportunity to give thanks. Remember everything that was outstanding, praiseworthy, or just plain peculiar about your pet. Poems or prayers celebrate the beauty we find in other creatures. Use a poem or a prayer from this book or write one of your own that gives voice to your feelings of thanksgiving.
"• Expressing Our Hope. Most memorials I conduct end with an affirmation of the life ahead. Ideally, the experience of loss inspires us to care for one another and to value each day we are given, to be kinder with ourselves and more appreciative of the world around us. You may also want to share your hopes for the future. How will you be changed as a result of the time you shared with your animal companion? In what ways would you like to live differently, or more intentionally, in years to come?
"In addition to planning a memorial, you may also want to remember your pet at regular intervals after the animal's death. If your companion was ten years old, for example, you might light a candle at the dinner table for ten days following the loss. You could choose one of the readings included here to accompany such a ritual. Take a moment to recollect where you were and what you were doing during each of the years you spent together. Setting aside a prescribed period for grieving — a few minutes every morning or evening for a week or two immediately after the death — will ensure that you have at least a portion of each day reserved for time you need to mourn. Observing anniversaries, after a month has passed or yearly on the date of your animal's death, is also important for many people.
"Making meaning out of life, including life's finale, is the way to transform grief into wisdom. Finding a purpose for existence is what keeps our suffering from being pointless. Moving beyond brokenness means integrating loss into a wider framework of understanding that can embrace both birth and death as parts of a larger whole. Meaning, purpose, and understanding can be discovered only within ourselves. Fortunately, the poets and philosophers of many ages and cultures are ready to aid us in our quest."