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.

Auckland City Harbour News - - NEWS -

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.’’

Photo: ES­THER LAUAKI

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.

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