At the outset, I will share that building a pet memorial recently was personally enjoyable as I am a creative person. It was also essential to my bucket list and my end-of-life planning. While I hope I have years of healthy life remaining, I am getting my affairs in order while I have respectable physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health. I also have the energy to plan, organize, lead, direct, and control aspects of my personal life that are important to me and others.
Folks should always take these capabilities seriously and recognize that many of us men in our seventies return to our maker without much notice. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, the average life expectancy at birth for a white male in Georgia is 66.8 years and 76.68 for a white woman in Georgia. In comparison, the life expectancy for a white male in the United States is 76.1 years and 77.28 for women. Life expectancy is even shorter for my minority friends and those without adequate health care, etc. In short, it is best to be prepared if you care, recognizing that many people can’t plan their day, much less plan for and prepare for eternity.
Animals mean so much to me that it is fundamental to my nature that I would desire to memorialize them, just as I have memorialized my grandparents, parents, sisters, nephews, and nieces. Those who study genealogy understand the importance of documenting our stories and making them available to the present and future generations so our descendants can better understand us. Sadly, too many people pass on without sharing their life stories and are lost forever.
I am not ashamed of my emotional attachment to my animals, and why should I be? Animals have been an essential part of my life since childhood, just as they are now. Animals share a refreshing honesty and love that is often absent in human-to-human interactions. I know what to expect from my animals, but I am often disappointed by friends and acquaintances alike.
I am not a newcomer to animal welfare. Those who know my background as a Rescue Warrior should have a relatively good understanding of the “why” I chose to memorialize pets in my life. As a tribute to all animals, I hope to convey and educate people on the importance of being kind to animals and adequately managing their welfare.
I have now completed the memorial design. I honor my dogs, cats, ponies, scarlet McCaw, and even a pet steer that my sisters and I loved before our father slaughtered him. My sisters and I learned early on that animals intended for slaughter should never be named.
I decided permanency was necessary since my current pet memorial was constructed around 2005 or 2006. Sadly, it did not hold up to the elements, and the lithochrome, a fancy term in the monument industry meaning paint, did not last, and the memorial is now very difficult to read.
Thus, I chose to design this new replacement pet memorial by engraving a 30” by 18” steel plate and surrounding it with black granite, with a 3” border on all sides, for a total dimension of 36” by 24”. My choice of materials is because of my desire for permanency when a visit through most cemeteries will reveal monuments for humans that come up short as memorials, have deteriorated due to time and weather conditions, and are no longer readable.
The Fletcher Pet Memorial will fit nicely in our memorial site within the McAlpin Advent Christian Church Cemetery in McAlpin, Florida, twelve miles south of Live Oak, which I designed and hired specialists to build for me around 2006. I grew up next door to that church, so that location is more than sacred ground to me. I feel good about the final design, and, in the end, that is all that matters. I live by my values, not yours, and that is how it should be.
I greatly appreciate the people who communicated their support, especially those who came to my aid to improve the design, exercising the unique talents they shared with me as a friend and fellow animal lover. The final memorial product was improved because of the synergistic help of these friends, and I am grateful to them. I won’t forget them, just as I won’t forget the animals that did so much for me during the various chapters of my life. I hope you will also aid the animals and that your legacy will inspire hope in the animal rescue community. We need you!