Why Kaiora Tipene feels grateful to work with her whānau over the summer holidays

Work doesn’t stop for the Tipenes over the summer holidays but there are plenty of happy times, hanging out with whānau and friends.

When it comes to the summer break, we don’t go away. We stay in Auckland and work at our funeral home. People still die over Christmas and New Year, so it is nice that we can be there to help families who can struggle.

It’s good to be mindful that loved ones are going to pass and it can be really hard when families were expecting to be celebrating this time together.

Some people would regard this mahi as simply working, but we actually enjoy what we do at this time because we have a sense of helping out those less fortunate.

I have been spending time being grateful for what last year brought us. This happens every New Year when I reflect on those who we’ve cared for in the past year – those families who had sudden passings. There’s always going to be that one less person at the dinner table for them.

Last year there was Covid to deal with, and I lost some people very close to me, but I’ve got my kids, my husband and I’m a mother. I’m still here to be present with my family and I’m so grateful for that.

The fun thing about not going away is that we have lots of friends and whānau around who ring us up and say, “Come hang out with us for the day!” So we do a lot of house hopping for kai and good times.

We will also make sure we do a lot of beach time. My kids love the moana, they love getting sand in their bums and their eyes and eating food with sand in it.

Having the kids at home is a mixed blessing. Nikora likes coming into work with us, but now Moronai, our 13-year-old, is coming in too because he doesn’t want to hang out with his younger brothers Mihaka and Mikae.

Nikora was a bit hōhā about that until we explained that eventually all his younger brothers would be coming to work at some stage and there are always plenty of hearses to wash and caskets to polish.

I always encourage the kids to look after each other, and Nikora looks after his baby brother, Francis Jnr, all the time. We have a whakataukī for that:

“Mā te tuakana ka tōtika te teina, mā te teina ka tōtika te tuakana.” (From the older sibling the younger learns how to do it, from the younger sibling the older learns how to be tolerant.)

When the baby is at work and he is distracting us, Nikora always steps in and often takes him home to look after him because it’s easier there. At work Francis Jnr is into everything. That’s when he’s not trying to find his dad.

At the moment, Francis Jnr cannot get enough of Francis Snr. First thing in the morning he wants his dad, and last thing at night. Which was a problem when Francis Snr was down in Wellington for a couple of nights recently. Mum was not enough. Mum would not do!

Even when he’s just at home he wants to be with his dad all the time and I’m thinking, “What the heck, I was once your mum who you really loved at some point.”

Kaiora Tipene works with her husband, Francis, as a funeral director. Their humour and knowledge of tikanga is featured in their Netflix show, The Casketeers.

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