This article argues that vigils for the dying owe their origins to traditional wake behavior. By viewing vigils for the dying as wake behavior, the different social conduct observed around vigils for the dying can be viewed more systematically and predictably. Vigils represent so much more than ways to manage loss and grief or to shore up support at a difficult time for the dying and their families. Vigils help establish the reality of death, protect and advocate for the dying person, and can express dissent and re-exert control over the circumstances of dying and death. The implications of these various social functions are discussed in relation to their conceptual limitations and implications for further empirical research.