In episode 4 of Deathwalker’s Guide to Life, we explore some of the ways you can leave a legacy after you die.
Perhaps the most obvious legacy is continuing the family line or whakapapa. But some people cannot have children. Others, like me, choose not to have children. Sometimes a child’s death precedes their parents. So not everyone leaves descendants after their death.
Living a creative life is another way to leave a legacy after you die.
The most universal legacy you will leave is of course intangible – these are the memories and feelings people hold for you in their hearts and minds after you die.
In most cultures, these memories begin to be shared during ceremonies and rituals that begin soon after you take you last breath and continue in the days following, especially around your body’s disposal. These collective memory-making events can then continue weeks, months and even years after you die.
One of the most famous cultural ceremonies is Dia de los Muertos or Day of the Dead. This ceremony originated in Mexico but is now practised elsewhere. This year it just happens to be taking place on Tuesday 2 November, just after episode 4 first went to air on Fresh FM.
One of the traditions associated with the original Dia de los Muertos involves building home altars called ofrendas, which are lavished with the favourite foods and beverages of the departed along with flowers, photos, personal belongings and other mementos.
In Aotearoa, the Wellington Día de los Muertos/Day of the Dead celebration takes place on Tuesday 2 November at the Public Trust Hall in Te Aro. It opens at midday and continues until 8pm, with performances beginning at 6pm.
Here in Whakatū, Day of the Dead Nelson has taken place, for many years, at Founder's Heritage Park. For a number of years, the festive family day — featuring Mexican food and drinks, piñatas, face painting, altar building, music and performances, even a chilli sauce competition — took place alongside the Nelson Arts Festival. Unfortunately it won't be going ahead this year due to Covid-19. The organisers are very much hoping celebrations will recommence in 2022. In the meantime, they have created a community ofrenda at Cultural Conversations in Morrison Square (see below for more info).
Over the ditch, the very first Byron Day of the Dead took place in in Heritage Park, on the banks of the Brunswick River in Mullumbimby, in 2007. Organised by the Natural Death Care Centre, it was spearheaded by NDCC founder Zenith Virago, who was my guest on episode 1
. The NDCC always envisaged it as a holistic death event; an attempt to bring about cultural change by establishing for our children and ourselves a better, more natural and supportive way to do death and loss — for most people, without the rawness of a recent loss or the intensity of a funeral.
The Byron Day of the Dead continues to be a free community event for anyone and everyone who has lost someone or somebody they love. It combines community art, personal memento making, message writing, and a gentle holistic death Ceremony of Remembrance. It is not aligned to any other cultural or religious ceremonies, and is always on the second Sunday of November. Free from tradition, it is for people to acknowledge their dead loved ones fully, to allow them to be with their living loved ones fully at Christmas.
The 2021 Day of the Dead was originally scheduled to take place on Sunday November 7 at its new home at Crystal Castle. However, there’s been a recent local outbreak of Covid-19 in the Northern Rivers so the event may or may not take place due to COVID restrictions.
The most obvious way to leave a legacy after you die, of course, is by leaving a will. Scroll down for more info about Marie Austin who works at C&F Legal, the show’s sponsor, and specialises in wills and probate.