Robert’s body lies peacefully on a draped massage table in the living room. His wife Jenna has lovingly hand-bathed and dressed him in his favorite flannel shirt and jeans. Their dog, Arlo, keeps loyal watch beside him. Candles, photographs and a vase of yellow forsythia grace a nearby windowsill.
Jenna draws a chair up and holds Robert’s hand in hers. Picking up a book, she reads aloud one of his favorite poems, drawing comfort from the knowledge that she can take all the time she needs to say good-bye.
Those who enter -if ill at ease about seeing a deceased person still at home - soon relax, sensing how natural and beautiful the vigil is. Someone has just changed the dry ice used to keep Robert’s body cool. A window is open, letting in fresh air. Children are present, bringing Robert treasures from the garden, or painting his casket in an adjoining room. A friend is quietly meditating. Another writes memories in a special book.
Upstairs in the kitchen, a kettle whistles and someone makes a fresh pot of coffee. A table laden with nourishing food offers a welcoming place to gather. A cousin tells a story about Robert and the room swells with voices and laughter. In a bedroom, his sister breaks down and weeps, and a friend goes to be with her as she grieves.
Being able to accept all that death brings, within the comfort and normalcy of familiar surroundings, is helpful and healing to family and friends. They can be themselves, feel safe, connected and supported as they experience the loss of Robert’s presence in their lives.
Jenna opens her family's vigil journal and writes: "Here at home, I can feel death taking its natural, rightful place in life again. Here with us, my husband Robert's life is celebrated, and his death made real and sacred."