Monday, September 08, 2008

RIP, Cooper

Sad news from Stepson #1 and Semi-Son-in-Law: Their beloved beagle, Cooper, died suddenly today.

While trying to convey something akin to pastoral care over the phone to Orlando -- being the closest thing to a family priest that we have -- I thought about how weird we Christians are about the death of companion animals. Most of us, at least in the liturgical traditions, don't have an issue blessing living pets, or even inanimate objects, but when a pet dies we sometimes think it's unseemly or even sacreligious to acknowledge that in any kind of pastoral or liturgical way.

For all you church geeks reading: If someone came to you asking for pastoral care or help with a ritual goodbye for a beloved pet, what would you do? If you had to come up with a short family-friendly liturgy for the burial of a pet, what are some things you'd include? I'm honestly curious.

Meanwhile, at our house we remember Cooper, marvelous creation of God and beloved companion to humankind, and thank God for this life well lived with humans who loved him, and who loved them back, unconditionally.

10 comments:

Teri said...

in the PCUSA Book of Common Worship there are prayers for the loss of a pet. We regularly pray for pets in my congregation, and for families who have lost pets. For a ritual, I would probably use something from the pastoral edition of the BCW, as it has at-home rituals for grieving families and it's easy to use the pet prayers there.

My new favorite liturgical resource, "Before the Amen" also has something, I think...but all this stuff is at my office and I'm on my couch.

Purechristianithink said...

The"issue" with this is, do pets have souls that can enter an afterlife? We could debate this--but I'd go for a liturgy of thanksgiving and rememberance. Whether or not Cooper has/had a soul, you can thank God for creating him, for the happiness he brought to his family, for all they learned from him. And you can pray that God will comfort the family as they grieve.

Crimson Rambler said...

Who was it this week who reminded us that there are only two prayers, "Please" and "Thank You"? so I would say prayers of thanksgiving for all the "good things about Barney"...and ... as with any creature (especially those whom we love but see no longer) I would ask, "please," but with confidence, that it be well with that creature...
With all respect to purechristianithink, I do believe that the discussion "soul or no soul?" is a cul-de-sac we needn't enter.

Choralgirl said...

I'd absolutely do it. I'd sing "For the Fruit of All Creation" (the AR HYD Y NOS version in With One Voice or Evangelical Lutheran Worship), which sounds like a lullaby, mentions creation and thanks God "most of all, that love has found us."

I might use Psalm 148 or some version of it...or write a canticle for the occasion something like what you'd find in Desmond Tutu's "African Prayer Book" (available on Amazon.com). Or I'm betting the New Zealand Prayer Book would have something creation-oriented.

PamBG said...

Funerals are about the living remembering the deceased, giving thanks for him or her and saying good bye. It seems to me that all these things can be done without going into the issue of whether or not animals have souls. (That's an interesting question in itself - are we to have a resurrected Kingdom of God without animals?)

I'd comprise such a liturgy in straight-forward, everyday language.

Dorontheos23, M.Div. said...

Quoting Luther, I like: "Be thou comforted, little dog, Thou too in Resurrection shall have a little golden tail."

I also use the Rainbow Bridge poem (you can google it), not biblical but always good for a good cry.
Dorontheos

Anonymous said...

My church offers a monthly pet service, and we include memorials during that time if people want. We adapted what we use from Andrew Linzey's "Animal Rites," which is still in print and available from Amazon. --Elizabeth Felicetti, Old Donation Episcopal Church

Margaret said...

I had a dog die suddenly the first Sunday in August, Lutheranchick. Many animal loving friends gathered round to help me grieve. And this week, one of them said something that I really value. Beth reminded me that the animals still live in the garden. It is only humans who had to leave.
So I think about all the times I have felt close to God because of one of my critters and it makes sense, doesn't it?

Deb said...

So sorry to hear this. I can still tear up when I think about our catly friends waiting for us...

Cynthia Ryland has written two books: Cat Heaven and Dog Heaven

I recommend them both.

Deb

Michelle said...

My spiritual director created a service for a friend's son who lost a fish...it use the litany of the three young men in the furnace in Daniel as a base. I told him I though he out to publish it - there's a pastoral need!

I wrote about it here.