When I was 8 years old, my grandmother took me to a vigil. To this day, this event remains one of the most powerful and sacred of my childhood.
The vigil I attended, a death vigil, took place at night– in someone’s home. The main living area, where the body lay rest, was illumined by simple candlelight.
Most of the women, dressed in gray and black, sat side by side; some praying as they held tightly to their rosaries, some simply wept, some were singing sweet, gentle songs. In their faces, I could see their stories; of sadness, of grief, of acceptance, of love.
This week, as several friends and I maintain vigil over a beloved friend, I realize the magnitude of love necessary for holding space like this. To keep a vigil requires that we remain awake, watchful, prayerful.
How many of us have the desire, mindset, discipline, humbleness to be as comfortable with death as we are with life?
Death is, in fact, the ultimate “shadow”; that part of our lives we dare not look at, speak of, nor accept. However, in the absence of its embrace, we cannot fully embody our own humanity.
For me, keeping a vigil for the dying, and keeping a vigil for the living, are one of the same. We need not wait to become “awake, watchful, and prayerful.” We need not wait to make sacred each dawn of our precious lives.