the Dead, Heritage Park, Mullumbimby, 9th November, 2008
Image: © Jeff Dawson/Byron Echo
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.
Virago, Natural Death Centre, Mullumbimby