Every year Deb Chebatoris encourages Pet Memorial Sunday participants to provide photos of their pets and a written tribute of 50 words or fewer. For the past several years I have helped to read them aloud during that part of the ceremony, and I have a deep appreciation for the brief tributes each person has offered.
I appreciate the event as do all of Deb’s families who participate, and we’re always considering other things to offer in addition to help her families and others who have lost pets. I know how much I love to revisit events and people who brought me comfort after one of my losses, and how just seeing a favorite photo can make a pet seem so close. In 2010 I proposed a few ideas for creating a memory from the annual Pet Memorial Sunday to offer something families could visit even after the day as a memory of the event and as a lasting tribute to their pet.
After working with photo and presentation slideshows for myself and other customers, and as Pet Memorial Sunday drew near, I remembered listening to the tributes from past events and looking at the photos honoring each of the pets. Just being there with everyone I began envisioning a beautiful and reverent presentation of each family’s pet or pets and its tribute. This could be on the website, well, forever, or at least as long as the website is there. We’d do a new one every year, perhaps add music to make the experience feel loving and relaxing. Viewing it after attending Pet Memorial Sunday would bring the viewer back to that day and time and the sense of community we all felt during the ceremony, and help to ease the grief a little more each time.
I proposed it to Deb and she liked the idea too, and we asked families to provide a digital image of their photo if possible, so the Chartiers Custom Pet Cremation Tribute Scroll includes those photos and written tributes from families who have attended the annual Pet Memorial Sunday.
I had initially only visualized the photos and tributes fading into one another, a pet’s image followed by the written tribute, but the idea grew as we worked on it. I use my photos of nature as the background to parts of the opening and closing, and each year we include a few photos from the event itself, especially the dove release. Some families don’t provide a photo so I use images from my own stock of nature, flowers, butterflies and beautiful skies in the place of the pet’s image, somehow relating the image to something about the pet mentioned in the tribute if possible, and in time I set it up so the pets’ photos fade back and the tribute appears on the faded image. The presentation has become a pleasant mix of cats and dogs and birds and bunnies, and flowers, butterflies and sunrises and paths in the woods, and just enough from the event that it brings us back to that time.
As Deb’s “publicist”, I photograph all of her major events, and the slideshow also includes parts of the introduction and closing remarks from Pet Memorial Sunday along with a poem Deb chose to end with, and my photos of the memory tables and the dove release as well as sunrises and sunsets and peaceful scenes from nature.
We were initially going to use a piece of music either Deb or I would create or something we could find on the internet, but Deb knew a musician who agreed to compose original music for the production and we use it each year.
I have to warn you, get some tissues ready. It’s not sad, simply very moving to see these everyday pet photos and read the words of the families, sharing this experience even virtually. After watching it repeatedly in the past few weeks you’d think I’d be a little bit immune to it, but when I take a little break and watch it again, off I go sprouting tears.
I am a speaker at the event each year, and each year I also add my tributes to the mix. This year’s Tribute Scroll includes my portrait of Kublai, “Are You Looking At Me?” remembering the twentieth anniversary of his transition from this life to the next.
To view the Tribute Scrolls
From 2012 forward, Scrolls are an MP4 movie while prior years’ Scrolls are Flash slideshows and can be seen on the Chartiers Custom Pet Cremation website. but I’ve included the 2014 Tribute Scroll below so you can watch it here.
If you visit the Chartiers Custom Pet Cremation website to watch the previous Tribute Scrolls, the 2010 and 2011 Tribute Scroll will open in a new window on top of the page you are viewing and will begin to play after about five seconds. If the page does not open, make sure you temporarily allow pop-ups. The slideshows vary between seven and ten minutes long depending on how many pets are included. Like any MP4 you can also pause and resume.
You can imagine compiling and creating this presentation is very emotional for me, reading back through all the tributes and looking at all those photos, but each year I work my way through it without tears until it’s pretty much all done and then I have a good cry while I watch it.
Please feel free to post any comments about the Tribute Scroll here. We’d love to hear what you think.
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Monday: Adoptable Cats, TNR & Shelters
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Wednesday: Commissioned Portrait or Featured Artwork
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Friday: Book Review, Health and Welfare, Advocacy
Saturday: Your Backyard Wildlife Habitat, Living Green With Pets, Creating With Cats
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