News & Notes 782:Farewell - an Auroville service to support life’s final passage

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782 icon.jpg   News & Notes 782
21 January 2019

Farewell: an Auroville service to support life’s final passage

Introduction: The activities included under the umbrella of Farewell have been evolving for years, shaped by changing circumstances, by the Farewell team and by the intentions of Aurovilians whose family members and friends have made the passage here in Auroville. It is an ongoing research conducted in collaboration between the team and those other Aurovilians who choose to join on the occasion of a particular passage.

The Team: All (20+) members of the Farewell team participate as volunteers. The team comes together each time someone in the community contacts the Farewell cell phone number (89038 36246) at the time of a death. Their activities take place at the Farewell building on the Crown Road and at the AVBCG (Auroville Burial and Cremation Ground) opposite Aurovelo.

At Farewell we work to provide a calm and peaceful atmosphere where the living and the one making the passage can experience tranquility and peace. We have been inspired by The Mother’s guidance and hope to facilitate a harmonious transition from life through death and beyond.

When a person is sick, under the care of an Auroville doctor and we are aware of the approaching end of life, some advance preparations can be made. If the person passes away in AV all details can be managed here. Here is a step-by-step explanation of how this process unfolds in Auroville at the present time. Every story is different so this is just a general overview of the elements that go into the care given by the Farewell team. Family and friends are invited to participate in all steps, as they feel comfortable.

  1. First the Farewell team is contacted by family or friends. After the death certificate is signed, it is decided where the body will be kept until the funeral.
  2. The earthly remains of the person are brought to Farewell or arrangements are made to have a rented coolbox brought to the home.
  3. The body is prepared by the team and placed in the cool box. (What is done at this stage depends on the condition of the body: whether there has been a hospital autopsy, a long illness, or it is an unexpected death.)
  4. The cool box is taken into the viewing room.
  5. The Farewell Team, family and friends create a special atmosphere in the viewing room using flowers, a candle, incense, photos or other personal items.
  6. We keep a physical presence at Farewell day and night while the body is in the viewing room. This is called ‘keeping vigil’. Anyone may help keep vigil: a family member, friend or a Farewell team member.
  7. Specific hours for visitation are fixed by the family, times when community members, friends and family can view the body at Farewell.
  8. The time for cremation or burial is also set and announced through mass mailing and Auronet.
  9. During visitation hours a Farewell team member is present. This person is known as a Vigil Keeper. They keep and embody a calm, peaceful atmosphere and help with flowers, and other practical tasks.
  10. When it is time to end the vigil, people are asked to leave the viewing room and to sit outside Farewell. Each day the team must attend to some essential tasks that require space and concentration.
  11. The team prepares the body to be transported in a dead body ambulance to AVBCG for burial or cremation. Usually family members are present.
  12. The Farewell flower team and family members, friends and other community members go ahead to AVBCG and decorate the entrance, pathways and the surroundings with flowers, creating a beautiful atmosphere. People spread flowers and petals in a meditative mood.
  13. Cremation in Auroville is a simple process: a pyre is built by the Auroville Cremation Team. Special bricks make a bed for the body. Casuarina sticks are put on the bottom. The body is respectfully placed. After smearing some ghee, a layer of cow dung patties is placed on and around the body. The final layer is paddy straw and a covering of smooth red mud. At that point people may come and place flowers and incense on top of the body. Then the fire is lit, usually by a family member.
  14. When there is a burial, the body is put into the ground either in a wooden coffin or wrapped in a cloth and placed on a mat woven of a coconut leaf.
  15. At either cremation or burial there may be music or someone may speak or give a reading. This is entirely up to the wishes of the family.
  16. There is no fixed timing, no set ritual. Each funeral is unique. People may stay as long as they like.
  17. For cremation remains, family members and Farewell team members come to collect the ashes after a day and a half. Ashes may be buried in a mound set aside for that purpose in the burial grounds or taken home.
  18. For grave stones there are no fixed guidelines. Some people choose to place markers in the ground at the head of the grave. Others deliberately leave the grave without a marker. The grave location is recorded in the Auroville ledger and transferred to a computer map.

For more details, please follow the Auronet link […].

The Farewell Team