Funeral role calls upon many skills
DAILY GRIND Have you ever thought about how you’d like to be remembered at your funeral? Esther Lauaki sat down for coffee with funeral director Nick Bakulich to talk about his role in a changing industry.
Some choose not to think about the end of their life while others like to plan their sendoff. Nick Bakulich likes to help people do it their own way.
He’s dedicated 22 years to helping grieving families and has seen many different ceremonies.
He once organised a service for a small gathering of white supremacists and another for a group of satanists.
‘‘There’s a way of doing things and there needs to be a flexibility around how you treat the body and the family, what you can and can’t do.
‘‘It’s a celebration of someone’s life and funeral directors have a social respons- ibility to care for families in the best way, regardless of your beliefs. People grieve in their own way.’’
He’s frequently asked how he got into the funeral business.
‘‘I got into it through fam- ily. My mum and dad were undertakers and worked for a firm in Grey Lynn called Tilton & Opie in the 1980s.
‘‘At the time, that firm did not feel adequately equipped to meet the needs of a very large Pacific population in the area. My parents Malua and Stan Bakulich were very much a pioneering couple in bridging that gap.’’
His first job out of school was running errands for the family funeral home and he was gradually given more responsibility. His passion for community service grew and he says much of his work is voluntary. He’s an elder at Newton Pacific Presbyterian Church and in last year’s general election he stood for Labour in Tamaki and is still involved in campaigns against the sale of stateowned assets.
Mr Bakulich took a break from funeral directing in 2004 but still worked closely with the Pacific community on job search programmes run by the Labour Department.
But he was soon back in the family business.
‘‘I went to a few funerals of family and friends and felt there was still a big gap to be filled in the industry.
‘‘It didn’t quite feel right the way that complete strangers were handling our people and funeral directors were still not adequately equipped to look after Pacific families. It needs a very human touch, so I came back.’’
In Pacific tradition the body is brought home in an open casket so family members can grieve together. Services are long and wakes include a feast.
That said, Mr Bakulich says nowadays people often opt for simpler caskets and smaller ceremonies.
‘‘I don’t know what people would see as out of the ordinary these days. What used to be out of the ordinary, like playing secular music in a church for a funeral, is all quite acceptable now.
‘‘It’s very personal and everybody is different.’’
Human touch: Funeral director Nick Bakulich has been in the industry for 22 years and has seen many changes in the way people remember their loved ones after death.