Staff members at South Suburban Humane Society in Matteson know how tough it can be to lose a pet, so they are organizing a special Luminary Memorial Event as a way to help people get through those sad occasions.
“There are so many that have gone through and will go through the loss of a beloved pet,” said Alicia Peterson, the shelter’s clinic manager, who is making the luminaries for the ceremony and walk. “Being able to share this evening with others who have had similar experiences, in a beautiful, natural, peaceful setting, will hopefully bring comfort to many.”
A walking path will be lined with battery operated candles, where people can stroll and reflect upon their lost companions.
Of course, current furry companions are welcome too, during the Lights of Love event from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Sept. 10 at the shelter, 21800 Central Ave., Matteson. Besides the luminary walk, the event includes a social time with light refreshments and a celebration with a pet blessing from a pastor who volunteers at the society.
Emily Klehm, CEO of South Suburban Humane Society, said the luminary walk around the building is less than a mile, and is surrounded by wildflowers and we’re on a wetland, so it’s very peaceful.”
She got the idea for the event several years ago when a local park district did it and when she brought it up to staff they loved it.
“I thought, ‘oh, that’s so beautiful, but we just don’t have any space like that where we could do that,’” Klehm said. “Now in our new shelter, we have a lovely outdoor space.”
The event is also important because people don’t always have an outlet for their grief when they lose a pet.
“A couple of us will say a few words about pet loss because it’s something that is not as talked about,” Klehm said. “When you lose a two-legged loved one, there are a lot of different grief options but it’s different when you lose a pet,” said Klehm.
To that end, staff will be on hand to present information about the shelter’s memorial program, where people can make a donation in memory of a pet or human loved one. The memorial bricks surround the building. Klehm said people often make donations for friends or relatives who have suffered a loss, whether animal or human.
Megan Rola-Podczaski, who is helping organize the event, said the gathering could be a “special moment” for people who have donated in recognition of a pet.
“We hope to have a large crowd that would hopefully offer a time to bond with others experiencing loss in a celebratory setting,” Rola-Podczaski said.
More information about the Lights of Love event or the South Suburban Humane Society is at https://southsuburbanhumane.org/ or by contacting Rola-Podczaski at 708-755-7387 or Megan@southsuburbanhumane.org.
Janice Neumann is a freelance reporter for the Daily Southtown.