The Wireless: Death and The Maidens – Working in The Funeral Industry

This piece was published on The Wireless (Radio New Zealand’s online magazine) in April 2015.

When Eva Rippon was eight, her grandmother passed away. Kept out of the funeral proceedings, she and the other children in the family didn’t know where she had gone or what had happened to her.

They badgered older family members with questions until, finally, they were allowed to see her at the funeral home where she had been embalmed.

“I remember seeing her: she looked so waxy and just not like herself, so that was strange. I had a sort of curious fascination with it, I suppose, ever since that, and have always been drawn to the [funeral] industry.”

That industry is one that looks set to grow, with 29,568 deaths in New Zealand in 2013 forecasted to hit 50,000 by 2048. The average funeral, depending on who you ask, costs about $8,500, though the sky’s the limit in an industry valued at over $300 million a year, which, according to the Funeral Directors Association of New Zealand, employs about 500 people nationwide.

Thirteen years later, we meet Eva on the sunny porch of the Natural Funeral Company, where she’s sweeping the area out the front. It’s a small building, with whitewashed walls and a slight scent of citrus essential oils. With conspicuous candles throughout, along with a lion’s head water-feature out the back, it might be mistaken for a day spa.

The rest of the piece is available here.


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