In this post I use the word vigil, but not in a religious sense. I’ve made vigil the topic for the Sustainable Funeral event at this year’s Sustainable Living Festival (SLF) event. I think of a vigil as a continuous, intimate thread of care. Some want to hold that thread all through their loved one’s dying process into the after death care. Their intent is to have plenty of time to be together after the death, whether this be a number of hours, or days, in preparation for the funeral. A vigil may take place at home, in a hospital or nursing home.
When I visited the US in 2013, I enjoyed the camaraderie between people involved in the ‘home funeral’ movement. When I registered at their conference, I overheard one woman say, ‘This is my sister Donna. She did her husband. We did our mother as well’. By this she meant that they had held a vigil for these family members at home, prepared the body for the funeral, held the funeral, and taken the coffin to the cemetery as well. A funeral director wasn’t called unless specific services were required. I’ve been involved in after death care like this, and at the SLF event, I’ll share some experiences.
This article from Huffington Post, ‘Home Funerals Grow as Americans Skip the Mortician for Do-It-Yourself-After-Death-Care’. shows how much the movement to ‘own’ the after death care process has grown in the US in recent years.
Remembering, witnessing, mourning and collective experience are all part of the thread of a vigil. I grew up in South Africa, and at the time of Madiba’s death, I was touched at the way spontaneous vigils arose all over the country. This candle-lit focus of caring attention could have been on the street where I once lived.
Kids can be creatively involved without any fuss when everything’s happening at home. When the option to ‘own the process’ of after death care is activated, kids and adults are free to bring imagination and care to this period of transition.
There seems to be an increasing appetite for conversations about the kind of after-death care people desire. Hope you’ll join me