On a quiet Friday evening, LauraDee answered the call that would mark the beginning of her journey as a HopeWest vigil volunteer. With no plans for the next day, she felt ready to offer her presence in someone’s final hours. Little did she know, this first vigil experience would unfold as a profound lesson, one that would reshape her understanding of life’s final chapter.

LauraDee started at HopeWest as a patient support and front desk volunteer before she was drawn to the vigil program. Vigil volunteers provide a supportive presence during a patient’s final hours so a patient is not alone. Not everyone experiences a patient’s passing during their time together. They may hold the person’s hand, speak or read to them, play the person’s favorite music, or simply be a comforting presence at the bedside.

With her crochet supplies in tow, LauraDee arrived to sit with a woman who had no family living close. She was welcomed by a former colleague of the woman, who mentioned her fondness for Christian music and how she had been singing “Jesus Loves Me” to her. LauraDee introduced herself with a gentle touch and took her place by the bedside. She spent the time alternating between her crochet work, playing Christian hymns on her phone, singing softly, and offering comforting words, all to ensure the patient knew she wasn’t alone.

As the night went on, a shift occurred that was difficult to explain. Around 11:10 PM, LauraDee was driven by an instinct to take the patient’s hand. The woman, who had remained with her eyes closed for days, opened them, and a tear fell down her cheek. LauraDee spoke softly and assured her, “You have lived a wonderful life, and it’s ok if it’s time to go.” In those final breaths, there was a peaceful atmosphere as LauraDee held the patient’s hand.

Despite her fear around questions associated with death and dying, this experience served as a comforting reassurance that the end of life can be a serene departure, free of pain, and filled with peace. She reflects that, “For my first vigil, I could not have asked for a better experience. I was there for a reason.”

Emotional support from HopeWest team members is always available to vigil volunteers, but LauraDee felt she didn’t need the extra support after this experience. It was an enlightening one, building a connection with the patient that went beyond their brief interaction. For LauraDee, it was a lesson which removed the fear of the unknown around death and reinforced the importance of not facing the end alone.

To those considering or new to vigil volunteering, LauraDee offers this advice: “Don’t be afraid to be there. You can be a comfort, and know that you’re helping somebody.” Her story is a reminder of the power of connection, the comfort of a held hand, and the peace that can be found in life’s final moments.

Interested in becoming a HopeWest Volunteer?

“Don’t be afraid to be there. You can be a comfort, and know that you’re helping somebody.”

LauraDee, HopeWest Vigil Volunteer