Vigiling at Life’s End
VALE’s mission is to serve those at risk of dying alone.
Death is inevitable, but dying alone or in fear does not have to be. It is common for those dying to want to be with someone in the hours before death, yet circumstances can make it difficult for a dying person to have someone with them around the clock.
In November 2016, the Unitarian Universalist Church of Bloomington began a new program to minister to those who are at risk of dying alone. We partnered with the Sacred Dying Foundation, which offers training and support, and with local long-term care facilities in order to be of service to those at risk of dying alone.
We offer our program to nursing facilities in the Bloomington area, and receive approval from the facilities’ administrators to offer our services. Residents request our services, or their Power of Attorney gives consent for them. All VALE volunteers respect facility procedures as well as the individual spirituality and beliefs of the person receiving the vigil. Vigil volunteers do not provide physical care.
Creating a sacred space around the person is our first step. Our carefully considered activities might include playing music, lighting a candle, reading poetry, reciting a requested prayer or scripture, reading other literature meaningful to the person, holding the person’s hand, or sitting quietly with the person in the moments after death.
Our vigil volunteers have qualities that we believe aid in this difficult time, including compassion for those dying alone; an interest in the sacredness of the dying process; the ability to sit quietly with unresponsive patients and bring calm to a space that may be noisy, sad, or busy; the ability to compassionately serve those whose spiritual beliefs and lifestyle may be different; a commitment to keeping all details of vigils confidential; or if nurse, clergy, or counselor, the ability to leave professional roles and responsibilities outside the vigil.
This program is on hiatus as of March 2022.