The Equinox Union Vigil is unique event that aims to build a community for those in grief while creating a safe atmosphere to experience it.
“We create a village for tonight, a space to remember the mystery that is life and death,” said Sharon Stevens, the organizer of the event.
“It invites us to be open and vulnerable in our community.”
The vigil was held at Union Cemetery on Saturday September 17, 2016 and is set up with activity booths for each attendee to experience at their own pace.
There are various musicians, choirs and artists invited to play and display their work to create a calming atmosphere.
“I feel like the people who host this are very compassionate, and I don’t even know who they are,” said Lesley McNamara, a Calgary resident.
“This is actually quite amazing, it feels very safe here.”
McNamara’s daughter died in December 2015 and she is still dealing with the grief of the recent loss.
McNamara said that she connected with the outdoor environment because her daughter was an outdoorsy person.
“It’s a cleansing for me, a place where I’m able to release all of my feelings,” she mused.
“It allows people to speak about their person.”
When remembering her daughter, McNamara let out some tears and said that she always felt her daughter’s presence when there was a cat in the room, because the two of them both shared a love of felines.
“With your kid it’s a lot deeper because it seems like there was so much potential for them that they never fulfilled,” she grimaced.
“She didn’t have children, she never got married, and she didn’t do all the things I would have liked for her to do.”
Former city councillor Diane Danielson also lost a daughter several years before, and this was her fourth time attending the Equinox Union Vigil.
“When you’ve lost a daughter, you never forget, and I think that’s why I came the first year,” Danielson explained.
“It’s nice to know that everybody around here has lost somebody, and that you’re not alone.”
Danielson said that she noticed that the first time she came, many people came alone, and that more and more people are coming to the vigil with their friends and families.
“I think that it’s good to be together,” she said.
One choir that is new to the vigil this year is the Threshold Choir. The choir collectively surrounds two people, wraps them in blankets and sings to them.
“We call what we do audible kindness, and these are little song baths for people,” said Shanon Mackinnon, a member of the choir.
“It really puts people at ease and it touches them in ways that words cannot.”
The vigil also has various activities such as crafts, decorating lanterns, a digital shrine and a lantern procession.
“They can make lanterns if they want, and they can be part of the tea and conversation with people they’ve never met,” explained Mackinnon.
“This allows people to personalize their grief a lot more as well as their healing process.”
The atmosphere was described as gentle by many of the attendees.
“It’s not religious, it’s spiritual,” said McNamara.
Danielson expressed exactly what makes this event so special: “There is hope here, and it makes you feel good.”