A dying woman’s daughter has been by her bedside for days. The daughter is exhausted and needs sleep. The son of a dying man lives far away and likely won’t arrive before his father dies: he can’t bear the thought of his father dying alone or afraid. A husband is fearful of being the only one home with his wife. She’s dying from cancer and about to leave him too soon.

In each of these scenarios a Hospice of the Northwest Vigil Team was able to ease the patient and family’s suffering. A dedicated group, Vigil Volunteers are requested by family members and patients who want companionship during the dying process. These compassionate and loving individuals sit by the bedside of dying patients, often through the night. Vigil Volunteers provide the most basic of human needs: compassion and dignity every moment of life.

Each vigil is personalized based upon a patient or family’s wishes. Vigils often include a variety of different sensory experiences. LED candles, soothing music, softly spoken encouraging words and comfort touch are part of the journey we share when someone is transitioning from this life. While most vigils occur overnight between the hours of 8pm and 8am, some are requested during the day.

Vigil Volunteers report 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. Some Vigil Volunteers will drive from all over the 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 HNW Volunteer Manager, Erin Long.

Hospice of the Northwest vigil volunteers are provided with 20+ hours of training, a combination of online and in-person, as well as the opportunity to partner with another team member initially. In addition, HNW provides monthly support and training meetings for our vigil team.

Hospice of the Northwest volunteers have been fulfilling vigil requests at an amazing rate. In 2016 there were 7 vigils held, in 2017 volunteers sat 32 and last year 48 dying patients had a vigil team. To learn more about sitting vigil or becoming a volunteer serving hospice patients, please contact Erin Long, Volunteer Manager at 360-814-5588, elong@hospicenw.org or through our website at www.hospicenw.org.