I'm Oliver Webber, here with my research assistant, Kaydence Ribetnauer. You may not be able to see us because we're tucked in between these blades of grass, waiting for our next meal to fly in and land on one of them. To nourish our bodies and souls, we ponder leaves. We encourage contemplation... especially in regard to issues that will have to be handled when we become worm grub. We hope to motivate others to thoughtfully cultivate preferences and decisions while still vigorously leaping around. We recommend croaking... using voices to broadcast wishes before it's too late to have a voice in this matter. Other than a sumptuous supply of insects, this is assuredly the most "toad-ally" considerate gift we could leave for our life companions! Don't you agree? We invite you to get your feet wet by joining our pond of pondering pre-planners. Let's make croaking meaningful!

Wednesday, March 18, 2015


Journey Journal... Apopka, Florida


“It is amazing how much love and laughter they bring into our lives 
and even how much closer we become with each other because of them.”

John Grogan

“No one loves you unconditionally as your beloved pet.”

Cynthia S. Dobesh

“Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened.”

Anatole France

At the Greenbriar Crematory and Pet Cemetery it’s all about love – authentic love for the four-legged creatures humans befriend during their lives. 

The owners are animal advocates, evidenced by a Facebook page brimming with measures of support for a variety of germane community causes and for their staff of dedicated workers.  Some of their initiatives have included an annual “Paws for A Cause” fundraiser festival, rescue management, and involvement in animal organizations. Proclamations of satisfaction and appreciation from both clients and veterinarians attest to their commitment. Formerly a kennel, in 2004 this facility was converted to provide end-of-life services specifically for pets.    

Before entering the front door, one can’t help but notice the sprightly acrobatics of koi fish sloshing around in sparkling waters accented by scintillating beams of sunshine.  Perhaps their rampant animation reminds visitors that life goes on, in spite of the death concerns handled beyond the entrance to the adjacent building.  Maybe these creatures are agents of connotation:  “Many of the attributes of the koi symbolize several lessons and even trials individuals often encounter in life. The koi fish has a powerful and energetic life force, demonstrated by its ability to swim against currents and even travel upstream.”

A rudimentary reception area is complemented by displays of cremation jewelry, especially pendant necklaces that accommodate small amounts of cremated remains. 

But the main attraction is a welcoming committee comprised of a receptionist along with an attentive parrot and two dogs – one enjoying a morning snooze and the other meandering around the premises. 

An arrangement room mimics those of human funeral home ilk, complete with relevant products attractively displayed on either side of a stained glass window featuring birds.

An assortment of urns is available for perusal. 

Memorial stones can be chosen there, as well. 

Unlike the wooden, metal, or biodegradable caskets for human remains, animal burial containment is constructed of hard plastic, in varying sizes with the option of cloth linings.  

A crematory is conveniently situated next to a private visitation and viewing room where final moments can be spent with the deceased animal. 

When the blinds are open, the body’s introduction into the crematory retort can be viewed through an observation window.  Owners appreciate an opportunity to witness this process as a means of identity assurance.  

The retort equipment looks and functions like the chambers used for human cremation. 

A nearby cemetery for burial of either animals' bodies or cremated remains is part of this establishment's twenty-acre property.  Human cremated remains of several owners are buried alongside their former companions.  This is one of the few cemeteries where the option is permissible.  

An evocative plaque greets visitors at the entrance to these grounds.

The Sunset Pavilion affords a place for contemplative remembrance and commemoration. A metal memorial photo plate bearing an inscription can be purchased in varying sizes to be affixed to its walls.

For someone’s first visit to a pet cemetery, the prospect of exploring it may be compelling somewhat because of a desire to compare its characteristics to those of human cemeteries.  In what ways are they different?  Actually, anyone who expects to find significant disparities is apt to be surprised upon discovering the extent of their similarities. 

A new grave, freshly dug by hand, is prepared for an imminent bodily burial.  

One of the owners had been the caretaker for Ryko, a police K-9 dog that Greenbriar had purchased for the department.  He had arrived from the Netherlands seven years prior to his death in September, 2012, due to cancer.  

In January, 2015, a dedication ceremony attended by law enforcement and elected officials was held here at a memorial garden established in tribute to him and other canine members of the Apopka K-9 unit, whose names are listed on the monument.    

Though the graves are arranged symmetrically in this pet milieu, the floral adornments over them mimic those on human burial grounds.  People are welcome to decorate the graves during any of the holidays, which they often do.  Visitors are frequent, sometimes placing dog bones and cat treats over the sites.  

One site is even graced by the presence of a fresh bouquet.  

Here, a sign of endearment is in the form of a balloon that has been added to the mix.

Favorite toys are reminiscent of playful times spent together. 

Facsimile statuettes serve as identity representations.  

St. Francis of Assisi earned the title of patron saint of animals and ecology because of his love for all animals, having referred to them as his brothers and sisters.  A tribute statue here represents his compassionate attitude.

Ceramic photos are popular additions to memorial stones everywhere, regardless of the subject's species.  

A memorial bench is one of many options available at cemeteries of all kinds.

"Family estate" plots are common at human burial grounds.  Here, family members of a different sort may rest in peace together, as well.   

The preceding pictorial overview of this cemetery’s features is comprehensive in scope for the sake of emphasizing a reality of life… and death.  Pets are important to the well-being and emotional health of humans as they travel together during their earthly journeys.   An animal buddy may be "man’s best friend" or at least a paramount source of interaction and pleasure.

“He is my other eyes that can see above the clouds; my other ears that hear above the winds. He is the part of me that can reach out into the sea. He has told me a thousand times over that I am his reason for being; by the way he rests against my leg; by the way he thumps his tail at my smallest smile; by the way he shows his hurt when I leave without taking him. (I think it makes him sick with worry when he is not along to care for me.) When I am wrong, he is delighted to forgive. When I am angry, he clowns to make me smile. When I am happy, he is joy unbounded. When I am a fool, he ignores it. When I succeed, he brags. Without him, I am only another man. With him, I am all-powerful. He is loyalty itself. He has taught me the meaning of devotion. With him, I know a secret comfort and a private peace. He has brought me understanding where before I was ignorant. His head on my knee can heal my human hurts. His presence by my side is protection against my fears of dark and unknown things. He has promised to wait for me… whenever… wherever – in case I need him. And I expect I will – as I always have. He is just my dog.”                                                                                                                                                                                                                              - Gene Hill

The permanence of detachment from this type of symbiotic relationship sometimes is as painful as it might be in response to human demise. 

The expressions of sentiment and devotion witnessed at this cemetery blatantly announce how passionately the owners of these pets had treasured them as undeniably significant companions.  The flowers, toys, photos, and solar lights garnishing memorial stones, statues, and benches on this property that’s designed specifically for animals are just like the objects on burial grounds for human beings.  Their presence drives home the point that loss of a partner, whether human or animal, can trigger profound grief.  In acknowledging the death of a cherished pet, memorial measures such as these may be an important aspect of the healing process.

A memorial page on the Greenbriar website serves as a personal channel for remembrance. Owners can submit a picture of their deceased pet along with a written piece. Their bereavement is addressed through availability of trained personnel, including two certified grief specialists and a pet funeral director on staff.  Regardless of the type of animal whose life has ended, human needs that surface when kinship ties have been severed are recognized and addressed, just as they are at traditional funeral homes for people.    

from "What Do Koi Fish Symbolize?" by Sue Lynn Carty

from Pet Loss Quotes

Monday, March 16, 2015


Journey Journal... Winter Park, Florida


A 2012 article in the Orlando Sentinel prompted interest in visiting a man who had been constructing his own Egyptian-themed mummy coffin over the course of twenty-five years.  In anticipation of a prospective rendezvous, questions began to surface.  What had inspired him to persevere laboriously, yet with vigor for so many years, in spite of his own antiquity?  How did family members and friends react to this type of ongoing endeavor?  Did he ever get to a point of feeling like such absorption in its finite details was a bit of overkill? 

In February of 2015 when plans were underway for a trip to Florida, an attempt to arrange a meeting with him turned out to be in vain… because the ninety-two-year-old man had died in January!  What a disappointment!  His handiwork was no longer a showpiece in his East Orlando garage, where it had attracted the attention of media agents. Now this gem of creative construction was out of sight… but not out of mind.   

The only recourse for a frustrated funerary aficionado was to visit the man’s grave where the finished product had been buried.  Maybe there would be telltale signs of the unique receptacle that lay hidden from public view under the ground.  Maybe the plot size would be larger than usual.  Maybe at least the grave would be festooned with Egyptian symbols of some sort. 

Not one of these postulations was true.  Fred Guentert’s gravesite looks like the others there at the Glen Haven Cemetery in Winter Park where it is located. 

A simple bronze grave marker marks the burial site.

Actually, when this craftsman made his end-of-life plans, though the burial container was elaborate and he had garnered notoriety for it, he opted for simplicity and lack of fanfare.  There would be no viewing or funeral.  He wanted only to have his body embalmed, wrapped in a shroud, and placed in the box he had finessed to its completion.  In spite of disavowing an afterlife, his face would be covered by a fiberglass mask depicting the Egyptian god of the afterlife, Osiris.  The coffin was to be locked tightly with wooden dowels. 

How often has anyone heard someone declare that he wants to be buried in a mummy case?  It must not have been a popular yearning a few decades ago when Guentert was unable to find someone to build one for him.  And if he had, he wouldn’t have been able to afford the cost of such customization.  Fortunately, besides having been an artist for the U.S. Postal Service, he was also a self-taught woodworker.  

The catalyst for creating a work of this nature was traced to a few of his lifetime hallmarks.  A seed may have been planted in his mind when at the age of eight he won second prize at a YMCA hobby fair after building and submitting two small mummy boxes.  Knowing that the year he was born, in 1922, was also when the tomb of King Tut (Tutankhamm), the Egyptian pharaoh, was discovered, maybe the coincidental connection sparked his interest and eventual absorption in ancient Egyptian lore.  The preoccupation was sustained throughout his life, engendering enchantment with the culture’s artistry to the extent of amassing dozens of statues and miniature masks that were on display in his home.   

His fascination was manifested not only by the collection of treasures, but also by his extensive knowledge about Egyptian gods and ruling dynasties.  That was augmented by a trip to Egypt in his later years.  A number of books he had collected, which pertained to the country’s ancient history and cultural distinctions, were tapped as resources for the coffin construction project. 

Source:  Orlando Sentinel

This inventive man with a vision designed his ten-thousand-dollar magnum opus with precision.  Exactness was executed using chisels, files, and sandpaper for hand-carving maneuvers. 

Source:  Orlando Sentinel

Decorative flair was accentuated through hand-painted applications of paint in bold shades of red, green, gold, and black. 

Source:  Orlando Sentinel

Inside the cedar box there’s a full-sized depiction of Nut – the goddess of sky. 

Source:  Orlando Sentinel

Perhaps oddly under these circumstances, the Eye of Horus – a symbol of protection, power, and good health – peers out from the side.  Similarly oxymoronic, Isis, the goddess of magic and giver of life, is near the base. 

Source:  Orlando Sentinel

Seemingly more germane is the presence of Osiris – god of the afterlife, the underworld 
and the dead – featured on the lid.  

Source:  Orlando Sentinel

Dowels and glue were used to unite and secure the pieces. 

 Source:  Orlando Sentinel

The motif epitomizes true end-of-life personalization, as this industrious artist chose to incorporate elements reflective of his predominant interests and persuasions.  Amid the Egyptian components, he included carvings indicative of his longtime membership in the Masons and the Shriners.     

Since the mid-1980s when he began working on it, the eventual three-hundred-pound, seven-foot-long reminder of mortality reposed in two pieces within his home garage, which inevitably became infiltrated with sawdust.  

Source:  Orlando Sentinel

Occasionally, he “tried it on for size,” but only when his wife wasn’t looking and wouldn’t witness him bedding down in this representation of destiny. 

This eye-catcher that could rival any memorial structures situated above graves is no longer a visible attraction.  Instead, it is underground with the remains of its originator.  Eventually, the one-of-a-kind replica of historical substance will disintegrate into the soil.  But there is no need now for anyone to gawk at it, for it has already served its purpose.  An aspect of a person’s life story was told through its materialization.  It was an affirmation of his personal uniqueness.  The man’s sense of purposeful engagement in its progressive development probably contributed to his zest for living. Though hidden from view, for anyone who knew about this showpiece, it continues to be a testament to an individual’s spirit and his capacity to exercise it in a productive and meaningful manner.  This functional rendering of art was his work of heart.


YouTube Video: Florida man takes 25 years to build Egyptian coffin (Jon Busdeker, videographer and reporter)