Posts Tagged ‘Vigil’

Posts Tagged ‘Vigil’

This Title is Irrelevant to this Post

7.29.2010 | 4 Comments

Last night I went to the Delta Chamber of Commerce to have a brief interview with the panel who will be choosing the Volunteer of the Year for the Hats Off to Excellence Awards. It was a nice little sit-down, we had a chat about various things, and it was all very comfortable.

We spoke about my being on the Delta Hospice Vigil Team, and what it’s like to sit with someone as their body prepares itself to leave this current world.

We talked about my Kilimanjaro climb, and why I’m doing it.

We talked about some of the risks involved in my doing this climb.

We talked about how much I really, really enjoy camping.

All in all it was a nice interview, and I hope I got across to them what my real goals and intentions are around this most amazing of adventures. They interviewed a whole boatload of people, and will now narrow the field down to three nominees.  Those three nominees will then be invited to attend a gala dinner in November – what an EXCELLENT excuse to buy new shoes!

However, they will be contacting those nominees in three weeks’ time. Right when I’ll be standing atop the World’s Highest Free-Standing, Snow-Covered, Equatorial Mountain.

And I’ll be singing.

Good luck to all the nominees! I’m thrilled to be in such fine, fine company.  xo


Always Look On The Bright Side Of Death…

1.27.2010 | 0 Comments

This morning I am going to attend the Memorial Service of a lovely man who I sat Vigil for recently. This particular gentleman (I’ll call him Gent) was in a palliative state for many days, almost defying all odds. This can be a stressful, painful time for family and friends, as they simply want to see their loved one pass away peacefully.

Gent’s wife was at his bedside day and night, ready to be there for him in his last moments. Days passed. Nights passed. Weeks passed, but still she sat. She talked with him, read to him, listened to music with him; she brushed his hair, held his hand, and kissed his forehead. They had been married for over 40 years.

Gent held on. We began to wonder what it is that could be keeping him from taking that last step through the door. All the children came in to say goodbye, all the grandchildren did, too. Friends came over, the Priest came in and administered last rites, but after many days, Gent was still not ready to leave this world.

It is believed that, to a certain degree, a palliative person can “choose” when to die. I can honestly say that I have seen this on a number of occasions. The thing is, one must remember that it is the dying person’s choice, and no one can rush them. Gent was making that abundantly clear!

His beautiful wife talked with him and told him that he was going to be ok. She told him that she was going to be ok. She told him the children and grandchildren were going to really like having him watch over them forever. She told him that they would never forget about him. She told him that there was nothing to be afraid of. Gent listened. For days.

In my experience, humour at moments like these can be a tricky, tricky thing. One has to be able to gauge the others in the room before cracking a joke that may be considered offensive in such a situation. However, Gent’s wife is a woman of great, dark humour and at one point she stood up, looked at Gent, threw up her hands and said, “This is so like you! You’re so stubborn!” then she ran her fingers through her hair and let out an exasperated growl. And then she laughed.

She and I then sat in Gent’s room and began to wonder aloud why he was taking such a long time to make the decision to die. She had run through every conceivable scenario with him, and now she was finding the humour in the fact that he was hanging on. “He’s in the boarding lounge, but he’s not getting on the plane!” she said. We wondered if the plane was being de-iced.

I had been relatively silent until this time, wondering just how far a humourous comment could go… I took the chance: “I think that maybe the TSA has taken over at the Pearly Gates, and Gent is stuck in the security line. Have we checked his pocket for metals?”

Gent’s wife absolutely lost it, and she and I both started to snort with laughter and were doubled-over with tears in our eyes as the scenarios for why Gent was still with us came pouring out of us. Gent’s wife joked that he was just toying with us all and had “one foot over the line, and was dancing back and forth, playing a game with us”. Gent’s wife knew that Gent was laughing, too, as he had a good sense of humour, and would certainly have appreciated the tension realease.

And then, after we were all but exhausted, we stopped laughing. The room went quiet once again. We listened to Gent’s easy, gentle breathing, and stood there looking at him with our arms around each others’ shoulders. And Gent’s wife said, “You know what I think it is? The earthquake in Haiti has created a pretty big backlog at The Gates, and being that gentleman that he is, he’s simply stepping aside to allow the women and children to go in first”

And that was that. That’s exactly what it was. It just made sense, really.

And so, after hugging one another, I stepped out of the room and left Gent’s wife to sit with him in silence one more time. He stayed with us for many more days after that, but when he finally did make the decision to ‘step into the line’, his wife was by his side, and had gently encouraged him not to be scared. It was a quiet, peaceful moment between two people who shared a great love for one another.

And for me, it was a great honour to have been a small part of such a huge moment.

Godspeed, Gent.


The Vigil

1.20.2010 | 5 Comments

Jan 20, 2009

A lot of people ask me what a Vigil is, and what it’s like, so I thought I’d take a moment to chat about it…

I sit on the Delta Hospice Vigil Team – the team consists of volunteers who go in and provide companionship for a person who is in their last 72 hours of life. Sometimes we are called when there is no family available to sit with the individual, and sometimes we are called when the family is there, but maybe needs a bit of a break. We sit in 3-hour shifts, and can be asked to be there on a 24-hour basis, or simply overnight.

Some people wonder why I volunteered for this particular position, seeing it as somewhat macabre, dark or negative. On the contrary, I chose to volunteer for the Vigil Team because I see it as exactly the opposite of macabre, dark and negative. Unless you actually do a vigil, it is very hard to understand one, and even if you do a vigil, it is very hard to describe. I’ll try my best, though…

As everyone lives their lives differently, so they pass on differently, as well. I am not a religious person by any means, but that is of little consequence when I have been given the honour of sitting with someone in their final hours. Something changes in me when I go into that room and see the person I am to be with for the next three hours – I do not bring a book, or a magazine, or any outstanding work that I need to get done, I simply go in and sit. I do not do things like feel a person’s pulse. That’s not why I am there. I am there to make sure that this person is not alone when they leave this earth.

I introduce myself and explain why I am sitting with them, and what they can expect from me. I sit down, take the person’s hand, or place my hand on their arm, and sometimes I may just start talking to them. I look around and take in the photos and personal items adorning the room, and use them as a starting point to begin my conversation. Maybe if there is a book available, I will read it aloud. If there is a magazine, I will leaf through it and describe some of the photographs within it. If there is a stereo, I’ll play some music. If there is a Bible, a Qur’an, some Buddhist readings, or any other religious literature, I may read it aloud, no matter what my own personal beliefs may be. I’m here for that person, and I am going to respect and honour who they are and who they were. But for the most part, I spend a good deal of my time with the person just sitting quietly, maybe not saying much at all.

The person I am sitting with is, more often than not, non-responsive, but that never stops me from interacting with them as best I can. The most important thing that I learned about doing a vigil is this: hearing is the last of the senses to leave us. The non-responsive person can hear me, and so I make sure to always keep that in mind as I am talking with them, with another person, or if I am simply moving about the room.

It is an honour to sit with a person who is dying – it is an incredible thing to bear witness to as someone’s physical story draws to a close. You know that their history will live on, and that their body is simply ceasing to function, and so when the time comes when they do pass into that next world in which they believe in, it is an immensely spiritual, honest moment.

Sitting on the Vigil Team has changed my perspective not only of death, but of life, as well. I have seen incredibly touching moments when sons say goodbye to fathers, and wives tell their husbands that everything will be just fine, and when brothers hold their sister’s hand one last time. I have been in the room at the exact moment when a person makes the decision to let go; be it a family member, friend, or the dying person themselves. There is no greater honour.

It is my privilege to serve people in this way, and I take to heart my responsibilities as a Vigil Volunteer. It is an intensely personal, immaculately open, and truly important part of my life to sit with someone as their life draws to its final close.

And I appreciate the Delta Hospice for allowing me this incredible opportunity.