This Vigil Night


Watch with me Jesus, in my loneliness:
Though others say me nay, yet say Thou yes;
Though others pass me by, stop Thou to bless.
Yea, Thou dost stop with me this vigil night;
To-night of pain, to-morrow of delight:
I, Love, am Thine; Thou, Lord my God, art mine.   ~   Old and New Year Ditties, by Christina Georgina Rossetti


          In choosing these verses as my sign-off for the old year, I am keeping vigil with someone who is dying of cancer. It’s a miracle that he’s been able to see Christmas, but I wish there’d be more miracles. Everyone who knows him is already hailing him as a saint, even packing off petitions to him, for when he gets to heaven. They have made him their personal saint. Their personal postman, taking their mail to heaven.

         I can’t help but wonder if this adulation isolates him even more, in his seclusion of loneliness, aloneness and unimaginable grief at having to leave behind his wife and nine young children, one just a baby. Everyone is playing God, praising him for his spiritual preparedness. May it be as they praise this man loved by God. May this not sadden him, for the closer we are to the end, for some, we know it gets harder. The road narrows, the skies darken, silence deepens. People will speak but the dying one will not hear. The written word may no longer make sense.

          His eyes, ears and lips are closing against his will.

          Woe to us if we have added to a dying man’s sorrows.

          Watch with me, Jesus, is the prayer of all who keep silent vigil with this soul as he whispers his farewells. Amidst the tinkles of wine glasses, the laughter and glee, amidst the joy and love and hope, many hearts remember this brave man.

          In the deeps of our own joys, we withdraw from the banality of misplaced blythe.  We withdraw from the mob that assumes a dying man should rejoice as we place the crown of glory on him.

          In our hearts, in every corner of the world, rich and poor alike, keep vigil with a man who welcomes a year whose end he will likely not see.

For Mac, New Zealand












          In the waning hours of the old year, Edgar A. Guest’s Looking Back might just offer us some lifepearls to live differently in the freshness of a new year.

Looking Back

by Edgar A. Guest


I might have been rich if I’d wanted the gold
instead of the friendships I’ve made.
I might have had fame if I’d sought for renown
in the hours when I purposely played.
Now I’m standing to-day on the far edge of life,
and I’m just looking backward to see
What I’ve done with the years and the days that were mine,
and all that has happened to me.


I haven’t built much of a fortune to leave
to those who shall carry my name,
And nothing I’ve done shall entitle me now
to a place on the tablets of fame.
But I’ve loved the great sky and its spaces of blue;
I’ve lived with the birds and the trees;
I’ve turned from the splendor of silver and gold
to share in such pleasures as these.


I’ve given my time to the children who came;
together we’ve romped and we’ve played,
And I wouldn’t exchange the glad hours spent
with them for the money that I might have made.
I chose to be known and be loved by the few,
and was deaf to the plaudits of men;
And I’d make the same choice should the chance
come to me to live my life over again.


I’ve lived with my friends and I’ve shared in their joys,
known sorrow with all of its tears;
I have harvested much from my acres of life,
though some say I’ve squandered my years.
For much that is fine has been mine to enjoy,
and I think I have lived to my best,
And I have no regret, as I’m nearing the end,
for the gold that I might have possessed.