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El propósito de un velorio

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El propósito de un velorio

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Keeping vigil over the dead is a ritual that connects and heals.

The terminology of el velorio, vigil, public viewing, or wake is when family and friends watch over their loved one in the hours following their death. These are beautiful gatherings that oftentimes take place in the family’s home; welcoming the community to pray, share memories and food, and recognize the significance of their collective loss. They can also be hosted by la funeraria.

But where is the value in holding a wake? Amid several days of traditions including the rosary, funeral, and novenas, where is the significance of the wake?

La aceptación es tangible

Physically seeing your loved one is knowing that on a visceral level, this is real. This is where the healing journey begins. When we lose a loved one, we might mentally know that they have died, but not physically seeing him/her delays that total acceptance. At a wake, the deceased are present. It begins the opportunity to process the loss while being surrounded by family and friends.  

El comienzo de un viaje

The healing journey begins with the vigil. For Catholics, death is not the end of life, only the end of life on earth. At death, a soul sits in purgatory, waiting to be cleansed of all sins and impurities and enter the Kingdom of Heaven. The vigil is the first step in this journey. After the funeral, the novenas, or nine days of prayer take place as a loved one’s soul travels closer to heaven. Family and friends come together at a vigil to pray over the soul of the deceased, asking God to forgive their sins and to soothe the pain of grief for the survivors.

A community that is mourning a loss begins a long journey at a wake. The vigil is a chance to support one another, share both their sadness and the joy that person brought to their lives, and help one another with the needs that arise from death and planning final arrangements.

La vida se trata de familia.

Family is everything. They provide unwavering support when times are difficult. Every milestone in life is celebrated together, including the passing of a life to the next step. Just like celebrating birthdays or weddings, a wake is another milestone that celebrates the life of someone who is loved. A life whose memory is kept alive in the hearts of their family and friends and in the stories they will tell at the next family gathering. 

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