What Is Vigiling?

An end-of-life vigil is the cornerstone of the Sacred Dying Foundation. Vigiling with the dying is being present at the bedside – quietly, peacefully – during the final hours of a person's life. It is keeping watch so that the loved one is not alone. It is providing spiritual presence with the dying. It can include the act of praying, talking, and performing rituals. A vigiler accompanies a person from life to death, while providing whatever is necessary to make the transition peaceful. We recognize that death is a sacred transition, and we, the living, are honored to be in its presence.


Watch a reenactment of a vigiler with her patient.


The Vigiling Process

With Sacred Dying, the end-of-life transition becomes an opportunity to bring reconciliation and acceptance for the dying and their loved ones. The vigiling process can include any or all of the following:

  • Sitting together
  • Talking and listening
  • Sharing silence
  • Reading inspirational texts
  • Providing healing touch
  • Creating appropriate rituals


End of Life Rituals

End of life rituals can help a person to die not only a peaceful death, but also a sacred death. The Sacred Dying vigil can include anything from a formal religious ritual to something simple and personal. These rituals often facilitate a more meaningful death and can incorporate any of the following:

  • Treasured objects with special meaning for the dying person
  • Poetry and readings
  • Music
  • Candles

Dr. Ronda explains to volunteers what the dying process is like.

“How do you feel, Katie?” I asked her.

“Good,” she said. “Like I want to fly.”

“Well, we can pretend you are flying.” I took a corner of the sheet, gave it to each member of the family, and pulled mine back so that the sheet was stretched out. I lifted it higher over my head, and the others followed my lead. Katie laughed. We let it float back onto the bed, and pulled it high again. It ballooned up. We could almost feel Katie soaring high on that sheet, high into the air, and back down again. We laughed and laughed. And Katy flew each time, closer to heaven and closer to God’s arms.
— Sacred Dying