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"Vigil Planning" Session 2 of the Positive Death & Dying Series (P)

Penn’s Village Presents:


“Vigil Planning”

The second in a series on positive death and dying

Sponsored by Home Instead


With Death Doulas Russ Alexander and Annie Wilson

Sunset Companions


Thursday, April 25, 2024, 2:00-4:00 pm

In-Person in the MacColl Room,

First Presbyterian Church, 201 S. 21st St.

A “vigil” is typically considered the final hours and days before someone passes away. This can be a time for loved ones to gather and say their final goodbyes. Creating a plan for this meaningful period of time can provide great support to you and your loved ones. In creating a vigil plan, you can communicate to your caregivers and community answers to questions such as:


What sounds or music would I like played in my final days?

What pictures would I like near me?

How would I like visitors to treat me? Would I like them to talk to me? Hold my hand? Read me poetry? Tell me about their lives? Tell a story about a great memory we have together?

Would I like anyone in particular to be there as I die or right after I die?

How is my spirituality incorporated?

This kind of planning is not necessarily offered by hospice or healthcare providers. A vigil plan is a gift to yourself, and to your visitors, who might not know what to do or say at your bedside. Participants will be provided with resource materials, and leave with a written first draft of their vigil plan.

Final Presentation on Positive Death and Dying:

End of Life Planning for Elder Orphans: Thursday, May 16, 2-4 pm

MacColl Room, First Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia


Russ Alexander has a passion. A passion to awaken you to what you already know: the reality that you and everyone important to you will die. And then, armed with that knowledge, to make and implement a plan. A plan to say goodbye. Goodbye to your life or the life of a person important to you. Russ began his journey in honor of his Mom, leading him to become a hospice volunteer at Penn Medicine in 2013. Then the Universe sent him down another road: train as a hospital chaplain at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. He completed that training in 2019. Throughout these experiences, at the bedside, he observed much suffering and fear. That led him to realize that, in order to empower people to do something about it, he needed to catch people way upstream of being discharged to hospice service or lying in an ICU bed. In 2019, he started the death doula practice, Sunset Companions, with his partner Annie Wilson, to do something about it. In 2020, he trained for death doula work with the International End of Life Doula Association (INELDA).


Annie Wilson is an INELDA-trained death doula since 2020, and a choreographer and performer in Philadelphia since 2007. As an artist, she believes dying is a creative space, and she brings the skills she developed as an artist to serve folks who are: planning for their end of life and funeral, seeking ritual support during active dying, and grieving a loss (death or otherwise).  She is CARES certified in end-of-life care for dementia patients, Reiki 2 certified, and has studied with Sacred Grief, Going with Grace, The Grave Woman, and the Centre for Sacred Deathcare. Annie volunteers at Penn Medicine hospice and the PA Debt Collective.  She has previously volunteered with Prevention Point after my sister and brother-in-law died of heroin overdoses. She believes there is a systemic dysfunction in how dying people and their loved ones are served, and her work as a doula is to both fill in nonmedical gaps of support and to transform the system so that those gaps no longer exist, including supporting community deathcare.


Home Instead provides non-medical health care to help people age in place safely while maintaining dignity and independence. Their local office has been serving Philadelphia for 20 years and can offer assistance with personal care, appointments, light housekeeping, laundry, shopping, and companionship. 

Thursday, April 25, 2024, 2:00 PM until 4:00 PM Eastern Time (US & Canada) (UTC-05:00)
MacColl Room
First Presbyterian Church of Phila
201 S. 21st Street
Philadelphia, PA  19103
Additional Info:
Event Contact(s):
Molly Clifford
Registration is required before Thursday, April 25, 2024 at 12:00 AM
Payment In Full In Advance Only
Please register on the Penn’s Village website, by emailing or calling 215-925-7333. This program is free of charge to our members and volunteer partners. Non-members and guests may attend up to three programs before being required to join and/or volunteer with Penn’s Village, or pay $10 per additional program.

Penn’s Village welcomes and actively encourages an inclusive and diverse community of members, staff, Board of Directors and volunteers. Inclusiveness and diversity mean welcoming all and excluding no one because of age, race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, physical abilities, religious beliefs or political beliefs.
Registration cancellations will be accepted until Thursday, April 25, 2024 at 12:00 PM
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