A photograph of a young barefoot woman's legs with a garden of dead flowers in the foreground.

Holding Vigil

This image reenacts the final weeks of my mother’s life, holding vigil in her room, surrounded by condolence flowers, waiting for death to relieve her pain. Having experienced the anticipatory grief of end-of-life care, I recognize the feeling of anxious anticipation before and after the death of a loved one…the waiting space, where you know what’s ahead but you don’t know the exact manner, time, or how you’ll react when death, a panic attack, or a grief trigger ultimately arrives. That waiting space can be a place to be present even when it’s painful. To stare your worst fear in the face while you smile for the one you love requires a presence which acknowledges your role is not to control or change anything, but to simply be with them.

What comes next we cannot yet know or understand. Your heart may tell you it’s impossible when the pain flairs, but it is possible to sit in that waiting space and survive on the other side. Remember to keep breathing.

Prompt by: Brianna Hernández Baurichter