K is for Keeping Vigil – A Pagan Blog Post

K is for Keeping Vigil



Last week I was honoured to be allowed to do service for our Hieromum. She went into Hospice before she died and we kept vigil until she died. I’ve attended my dad and mom’s deaths but both of them died in Nursing homes and there is a limited amount of time you can spend in a nursing home before you are just in the way even if they are supposedly under Hospice care. Laura was allowed to go home and be surrounded by people who loved her 24 hours a day and as well as having 24 hour Hospice nursing.


Laura was allowed to die with her altar a few feet away surrounded by her goddess statues and art. And we were allowed to ease her passing in a dignified way.


We read to her her favourite invocations, prayers and poems. Some of which she had written. We sang to her and we held sacred space in our Temple. She could have the door and windows open and no that her garden was near by. We could touch her and reassure her and ourselves as the process went on.


She was never alone. No one should die alone if they don’t want to and Laura didn’t die alone.


Dying is not for sissies. It’s just as much a labour as being born is and seems to be difficult at times for the person in the process. I was on-call clergy for the AIDSServiceCenter for many years but as clergy unless asked you can’t stay long. I was prepared I thought but sitting with Laura was different. This was someone I loved even more than I loved my mom. (My mom was not a particularly nice person.) Cam died in an emergency room the night before we were to fly up and be at his surgery so I couldn’t be there for him.


To attend the dying you have to be willing to just be and let them go. You can’t send energy as it seems to confuse them and they are in the process of dumping energy. Their energy spikes and gets sparkly as they attempt to leave their body. Their breathing changes, they itch and need to be soothed. They may or may not be in pain. They get fearful at moments and ask for help even if they are not fully conscious and you have to be willing to do what they need and not get in their way no matter how much you love them, this is not about you. This is about them.


You may cry and we did many times but you cannot grieve until they are gone. You are there in service. You are there to hold sacred space. You are there to hold the way open and acknowledge their life. You are there to love. Anything else can wait. If you aren’t willing to do that you shouldn’t be there.


We had a rotating assemblage of priestesses and one priest. Laura didn’t ordain many men. We laughed and told her we loved her. We cried and prayed and sang to her. We had people there by attunement including our priestess who was teaching in Greece and couldn’t come home until this week.


We will miss her but I’m so glad we could do this for her. Every one should be allowed to die surrounded by love and dignity. I couldn’t be there when she died at dawn on  Monday but three of our sister priestesses were and were allowed to wash her and clothe her for her last journey and to read what Laura requested.


She is gone but never completely. She was our guide and our shining star that never will go out.