The Casketeers: Caring for the dead and the alive.

After a little hiatus from blogging, I am happy to be back. I am home from New Zealand after a 3-month stay. It is difficult to find a topic that is a bit lighter in these trickier times. As a dedication to my homeland, I thought that I would share a piece on a quirky little reality show about the proprietors and their employees at a Funeral home in Auckland. It will put a tear in your eye and a tickle in your funny bone.

Francis, the patriarch of Tipene funerals is a perfectionist; from his fixation on keeping the outside of Tipene Funerals spic and span and his wish to have the best, most powerful backpack leaf blower, to his fastidiousness in ensuring that the lining of every casket is not creased, and his focus on his own immaculate personal appearance. His personal expectations are high. Francis is an innovator and a dreamer. He aspires to have a Tesla hearse and Led light Caskets that come in an array of colours so that mourners can choose their own light display when the Whanau (family) come to say their farewell. The most amusing moments of the show occur when Francis’ idiosyncrasies come into play.

Francis could be considered a pain in the arse and certainly, his employees stop just short of calling him one. But Francis, his tolerant and long-suffering spouse, Kaiora, and their employees have their customers close to their hearts. Their purpose is full of care and compassion as people experience the most difficult times in their lives-the death of a loved one. There is such tenderness, warmth, and understanding towards the people that they serve. This is so beautifully depicted in an episode where Francis gives away a casket to a grieving family who cannot afford to pay for one, for their young mother and daughter who passed away suddenly from an aneurysm, or in another episode when Francis rallies his team to give a homeless person a send-off that is full of music, singing, and tenderness.

Throughout the four seasons of this show, we are treated to the balancing act of the Tipene’s staying true to their values of care and compassion combined with all of the finer aspects of running and building their business.

Despite his faults, Francis shows true leadership many times throughout the episodes of the Casketeers. He is shown mentoring a new funeral director, and although it is difficult for him to “let go”, we see him as he manages to step back only providing guidance when required and then feeling so proud of his employee when she succeeds.

The moments of humour, which is distinctly Kiwi, intermixed with such poignancy, is the reason that Francis, Kiaora, and crew have touched a nerve with me. They exemplify what it means to have a Purpose where they make a difference and live their values every day. Catch it, if you can!

Dianna Howell CMgr MIML MAPA

July 2021

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