What is a vigil and why would you plan one? A vigil plan outlines your wishes for your last days and hours; it is NOT your Advance Care Plan, but it should be part of your planning process. As you create your Advance Directive, consider your wishes. Having an idea of what you want will help your family, loved ones, and caregivers create the peaceful environment you desire. Leave a copy of your wishes with your Advance Directive so you loved ones will find it easily.
Would you like your bed next to a window so you can catch the fresh air, birds singing, or the sounds of your neighborhood? Maybe you want quiet while you complete your life’s work.
How about a favorite scent? Candles or essential oils can sweeten the air. Fresh flowers at the bedside (for me, no lilies!)? Do you have a favorite quilt or childhood ‘blankie’ you reach for when you need comfort? Fresh sheets?
Music is very powerful at end of life. Do you have a ’deathbed playlist’ yet? I am working on mine and every time I hear a special tune, I add it to the list.
Visitors – yes or no? Could a loved one or volunteer help manage ’traffic’ so you aren’t overwhelmed or do you prefer a big party at your bedside? Our pets are very intuitive; they will be aware that something is changing. Will you break the rules and allow your pet onto your bed?
The word ’ritual’ can mean many things to you. Your priest may see you for Anointing of the Sick. Your loved ones could bathe your face, hands, and feet in fragrant water. Do you have an elder or spiritual director on your ’team’? Now is the time to call them if you choose to have their company.
Could someone read from your favorite book? Charlotte’s Web? Dr. Seuss? Books of poetry? My new favorite poet is Jan Richardson. Mary Oliver is used often at the bedside and for good reason. Maybe you have favorite Bible passages or other spiritual readings. Whatever brings you comfort should be at your bedside.
Guided imagery (or guided meditation) has been shown to lessen physical pain, stress, and spiritual pain. Where is your ’happy place’? Your doula can assist in creating a narrative, walking you through that special place. Your loved ones will also benefit from closing their eyes and ’seeing’ your story.
A vigil plan is something you can create while you have the energy to consider the details. If you are unable to communicate these wishes a loved one, your doula, or a volunteer will help to create a peaceful room for you. You might be at home, a senior living campus, hospice home, hospital, or nursing home. Taking some time to create this peaceful environment will bring you comfort and allow your loved ones to remember the beautiful moments when you left your earthly body with grace.
It’s never too early until it’s not. You have heard that before and it is so true as you consider end of life. We can work together to creat the vigil plan that will bring you comfort.