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The vigil we never had

We had an exercise in class to create a vigil out of a simple inanimate object and design something special from it. Was this for a future person or someone we knew? We didn't get the answer so I went with what I knew and the object came to my immediately. This is the vigil we never had.

Before entering the room we created for John ask everyone to pause and think of something they are grateful for and bring that gratitude into the room. When they leave take with them the scared moments they shared with John in gratitude.

The room we are in is the dining room. It has been designed for his comfort by those who love him. It is beautiful. The bed is covered with the woolen blanket that he used to cover up when napping with Wendel in the afternoon. The lights are dim and the playlist playing is the one from our road trips. A favourite mix of 70, 80, today’s rock, Indy and worship music. Its soothing Family is all gathered around your bed while you sleep and we reminisce about this little carving.

I start by sharing the history of this little wooden Arabian horse carving and what it meant to me, to us.

This little carving has been with us for over 30 years. He symbolizes so much love, support, encouragement, and peace. Somehow, he never got lost, broken, or donated in all our moves. He has always come with us wherever we went. He always found a place where we could see him.

He is an Arabian foal, curled up peacefully resting. He is unassuming . He was a gift from you given to me just before my first horse show. It was so special.

I remember feeling nervous and excited that day. I remember it was hot and muggy. I remember feeling gross and sweaty and you telling me I looked beautiful. You always told me I was beautiful. I remember your love, encouragement, cheers, and support. It was a really good day.

After the horse show I placed this little peaceful foal in a spot where I could see him every day. He reminded me of the newness of the experience, the joy, fear, and accomplishment that day brought. He reminded me of you and the peace you bring to our home and family. It reminded me that no matter what you would always encourage and supporting me with a sense of pride I could see and I could feel. You could always calm my fears by listening without judging me. Listening to me process any fears, disappointments, wins, whatever it was you were always listening. Now when I looked at this little carving I feel love and peace.

We are placing this foal here beside your bed as a symbol of love and peace. Something to bring you back to memory where we were all together as a family doing something we had never done before. Supporting and loving each other through. Just like now. We are all together supporting each other through something we have never done before. This is the symbol that we can and will do this with love, honour, dignity and peace.

Thank you for loving me so well. Thank you for always believing in us even when it was hard. Thank you for being my best friend through thick and thin. Thank you for raising our kids with me and for being the one who was the real parent. Thank you for teaching me so many things about life, history, the world, politics and geography. Thank you for being my geographical artist when I would loose my way, which was a lot. Thank you for supporting me in my darkest times and best times. Thank you for being the most amazing partner in life. Thank you for loving our children, their husbands and our grandchildren.

I pray you know how much we all love and adore you. I pray you know the impact you have had on not just us but everyone who has had the honour of knowing you. I pray you feel it and carry with you. I pray you will curl up and rest peacefully. I pray you are moving towards the loved ones who have gone before you knowing you will be safe and cared for. I pray you know and understand we will be okay because you have given us everything we need to carry on. We will be devastated and heartbroken. I know you don’t want us to be sad, but we will be because we love you and we will miss you everyday of our lives, till we meet again. I pray peace over you as you take this the final leg of your journey from here moving towards your new home.

Know we will carry on your legacy of love and service all the days we have left. We will keep you in our hearts and minds. We will keep our little arabian foal close by to remind us of that beautiful day over 30 years ago and the beautiful day today here with you. This day we are so honoured and grateful to share with you, my love.

With the family all around we hold hands and sing “Photographs and Memories” Each one holds the carving and says a little prayer or memory before passing it on to the next. We stand silently with you as you sleep. I am holding your hand stroking it and telling you how much I love you. Telling you, you can let go now.

When each person leaves they leave with love and gratitude to hold, to carry and to share.

Love forever and always,


What is a vigil? Here is a really good description by Andrea Sherman

Vigiling with those who are dying is being present at the bedside during the final hours of a person’s life. To sit vigil is to sit and keep compassionate awareness and a sacred invitation and privilege to share presence with a dying person, so that they are not alone, until the moment of death. Often we vigil in the last 24-36 hours of life, but it can be a longer or a shorter time. During that period, it’s important to be mindful and aware, to be a witness and companion with a compassionate, kind, and gentle presence.

It can include the acts of breathing with silent contemplation, praying, talking, sharing music, legacy, reflecting on a person’s life as well as performing rituals. A vigiler accompanies a person from life to death, while providing whatever is necessary to make the transition peaceful. We recognize that death is a sacred transition, and we, the living, are honored to be in its presence.

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