Rainbow Dreaming  

Day of the Dead

Day of the Dead, Heritage Park, Mullumbimby, 9th November, 2008
Image: © Jeff Dawson/Byron Echo

The Natural Death Centre

The Natural Death Centre is a not for profit organization in the Byron Shire, NSW. We are committed to promoting the concept that death is a natural part of our life cycle, demystifying death and celebrating life. We like to see it as approaching death in a more sustainable way.

By assisting and guiding individuals, families and groups to know more about their options, they become more aware and can make choices that are meaningful and appropriate for them. This makes the dying, death and disposal of the body process more enriching and thus makes the grieving process easier to slip into.

We hold an annual Day of the Dead in a local riverside park in Mullumbimby. It is part of a cultural shift to doing death more openly and well, also allowing children to fully learn and participate, and moving to an awareness of our own mortality and thus a celebration of life whilst we are in it.

The afternoon starts with an hour of community art, where people can create a memento, message, ceramic heart etc. and this is placed around the Tree of Life and death altar. Photographs are also pegged on a line, so everyone is there in spirit. A community choir encourages people to sing with them, or to let the music take them somewhere.

Then a ceremony is held to take people deep into their process whatever that is for them. It honors love, connection and loss in many forms. At the end of the ceremony, anyone can get up to the mic and honour the loved ones by name.

To close, there is usually a big whoosh to life, where everyone comes together: to celebrate what we have done, that we are alive and that by honouring our dead, with love and respect, and sadness at our loss, we can then fully embrace life and be more present to what is, and what we have in our lives.

We have recycled eco cardboard coffins and paper urns. These are biodegradable products that allow the contents to become a part of the earth and something nourishing and useful, rather than using plastics, veneers and fuel to keep the body and ashes separate.

More people are joining the global wave of acceptance of natural death. They have reluctance for medical intervention to extend suffering, and don’t see death as a failure, or to stay alive at all costs, regardless of quality of life. Embracing death, experiencing as fully as possible the journey it offers, for both the dying person and those that accompany them, can be one of extraordinary learning and gifts, in its pain and sorrow, its joy and celebration.

Zenith Virago, Natural Death Centre, Mullumbimby

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