Final Vigil for Our Son

Three days after Timmy had left his body, Matt and I were again at his bedside, waiting to say goodbye to our son’s body, to walk him to the operating room. It sounded so civilized, sterile, and healing. But no, this surgery would remove his vital organs, place them in containers to be preserved. They would then be transported to various other ORs, where doctors waited to transplant them into other patients’ bodies.

We weren’t thinking of that reality as we stood vigil at his bedside, watching him seemingly sleeping. We walked the gurney down the hall to the OR. As we went through the doors to the vestibule, I realized the truly terrible nature of this surgery, this deconstruction of my son’s body. I wanted to stop it, to save him, to keep him. But I let him go, and the doors closed behind him.

Sad and Beautiful Welcome Home

We walked like zombies to the car. Matt put on a beautiful, haunting, repetitive chant: “Returning, returning, returning to the Mother of us all.” We listened and cried as we drove the half hour home. We arrived at about 1:00 a.m. As we parked on the street, we were touched to see the entire house alight with candles.

It was piercingly beautiful and sad. There were candles on the front fence, on the patio, at the front doorstep. As we entered through the living room and into the family room, candlelight was the only source of light. It was vigil, lovely and haunting.

Tyler and Cassedy, our siblings, a few of our friends, and some of Timmy’s friends greeted us as we gathered in the gentle light, in the middle of that dark night. Matt put on the chant, the simple repetition of “Returning, returning, returning to the Mother of us all.” We sat together in the semi-dark, chanting, crying, praying, and holding silence while Timmy’s body was in surgery.

Weighed Down with Grief

In the morning, it was over. My body was weighed down with grief. I could barely lift my head, much less my body. I laid catatonic, sleeping on and off throughout the day. At times, I heard voices downstairs and thought that I should get up and join them—but the thought did not have the power to move me. I felt no obligation to do anything other than tend my own broken heart.

At about 4:00 in the afternoon, I sensed a glimmer of light—perhaps from the window, perhaps from somewhere beyond. I thought, I could get up and shower and go downstairs. I considered dismissing it and pulling the covers back over my head, as I had done many times already that day. But there was the invitation, the possibility of rising.

In that moment, I realized I had a choice. I could shut out the glimmer. But some part of me recognized that the opening might not last and that I needed to move toward the light when it appeared, however faint. I opened the covers of my cocoon and slowly, gently moved my body forward, toward the light. That became a pivotal moment—choosing the light when it presented itself. It was a sacrifice of the sadness to the possibility of something else—hope.

Excerpted from Marriage Unveiled: The Promise, Passion, and Pitfalls of Imperfectly Ever After by Sherry Cassedy. Learn more at

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Sherry Cassedy

Sherry Cassedy has practiced law and mediation for 29 years and currently has a mediation and private judging practice in Palo Alto, CA ( Ms. Cassedy has also served as an adjunct faculty member at Sofia University (formerly the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology), and in the Religious Studies Department at Santa Clara University. Ms. Cassedy, MA, Institute of Transpersonal Psychology, and Certificate in Spiritual Guidance, offers spiritual guidance, yoga instruction and seasonal retreats on spiritual topics. Sherry is a passionate student of yoga philosophy and other spiritual teachings, which she incorporates into her yin and restorative yoga classes. She is also a licensed minister and works with couples in preparing and officiating marriage ceremonies. Sherry has been married to Matthew Sullivan, PhD for almost 35 years and they have three children, Tyler Sullivan, Cassedy Sullivan and Timothy Sullivan (Deceased 2010). Sherry lives in Santa Cruz, CA where she teaches and writes.

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