Serving Skagit, Island, San Juan, and Snohomish Counties

The Vigil Volunteer

The Vigil Team

In the dimly lit room, the door to the bright hallway stands open. While peaceful music floats through the air, a gentle breeze crosses the fevered brow of a dying patient. Sitting by her side is a volunteer: holding her hand, placing a cool washcloth on her forehead, and gently murmuring encouraging and comforting words.

A dying woman’s daughter has been by her mother’s bedside for days but is exhausted and needs a full night’s sleep. A dying man’s son lives far away and won’t arrive in time: he can’t bear the thought of his father dying alone and afraid. A husband is fearful of being the only one home with his wife. Her body is ravaged by cancer and she’s  about to leave him too soon. In each of these scenarios, the Hospice of the Northwest vigil team is alongside our patients to provide the most basic of human needs: compassion and dignity every moment of life.

The Hospice of the Northwest volunteer vigil team is made up of a dedicated group of compassionate and loving individuals who sit by the bedside of dying patients. In many instances, people and families request privacy during the dying process, much as people do during the birthing process. However, when someone is in need, our vigil team is there. Each vigil is personalized based upon patient or family wishes.

Vigils often include soft light, LED candles, soothing music, softly spoken encouraging words, comforting touch, hand holding, placement of cool washcloths on foreheads, and someone to be with the patient during the journey from this life.

We often hear from our vigil team that these four-hour shifts are some of the most sacred and precious moments of their lives. Offering another human comfort, compassion, and dignity in the final days and hours of life is an honor not taken lightly. Volunteers will drive from all over our service area to sit with patients, support families, encourage facility staff, and provide a sense of peace.

“Our role is to be the calm in the room, to bring peace and compassion with us through our words, our actions, and our presence,” says Volunteer Manager, Erin Long.

The vigil team is made up of five team leaders who rotate taking the vigil phone. These team leaders organize a vigil when a request is made. There are currently 25 vigil team members serving our community. Hospice of the Northwest vigil volunteers are provided with over 20 hours of training as well as the opportunity to train one-on-one with another team member. Additionally there are monthly support and training meetings for our vigil team.

Hospice of the Northwest staff have been requesting vigils at an astonishing pace. In 2016 there were 7 vigils; in 2017 there were 32 vigils held; last year in 2018 there were 48 vigils. Through the first half of 2019, Hospice of the Northwest volunteers have provided compassion and dignity to 17 patients to date in their vigil service.

If you are interested in becoming a vigil volunteer for Hospice of the Northwest, please contact Erin Long, Volunteer Manager at 360-814-5588, via email at elong@hospicenw.org, or through our website at www.hospicenw.org.

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