Dedicated to the delicate service of providing closure
Funeral service director Grace Quek makes a point of going out of her way to help families in mourning
When she left her father's casket company in 2019 after 10 years as its general manager, Ms Grace Quek wanted to do something entirely different.
In a recent interview, Ms Quek, 40, told The New Paper: "I was planning to leave it all and return to the US to continue my passion in forensic science, but I had just bought my Housing Board flat and thought starting something in Singapore would be more sustainable."
She decided to explore new yet familiar terrain by opening her own funeral service, Union Bereavement Services, in November 2019.
Today, Ms Quek provides services for two to three clients a month - but not before enduring a challenging start.
"My father used to deal with the suppliers and vendors, and suddenly I had to deal with every single detail of a funeral service, which was a difficult transition," she said.
When the circuit breaker kicked in last year, Ms Quek suffered losses for two months.
"Going into phase two, I was pretty much in debt and even applied for other jobs, but I decided to stay on as this is something I have experience in," she said.
Ms Quek sprung back into action when restrictions eased by visiting temples to build her client base.
She also tapped her network of social worker contacts who had access to old folks' homes, destitute persons and residents in hospices without strong familial support.
With Covid-19 safe management measures in place, she helped to plan staggered timings for wake visitors.
She shared how she also helped a Malaysian family store their loved one's ashes in her home, when the country was placed under a movement control order in April last year.
"I felt like I was helping a friend, and it did not feel awkward... I did not see a reason not to help."
Ms Quek's work was featured in the National Archives of Singapore, as part of the National Library Board's public call, Documenting Covid-19 In Singapore.
Ms Tan Huism, senior director of the archives and libraries group, National Library Board, told TNP: "We are heartened to see the community coming forward to share their stories on living and coping with the Covid-19 pandemic... we invite the public to continue to contribute their stories."
Ms Quek hopes to grow her business as a female entrepreneur in a male-dominated industry and continue to provide families with the support they need.
• The funeral service industry is for society's outcasts or the unemployed: That is not true. More undergraduates are taking an interest in the industry and have come up with innovative ways to provide services for families in need.
• You will have supernatural encounters: There is no such thing. It is also disrespectful to the grieving families to associate ghosts and supernatural forces with the death of their loved ones.
• Women mourners cannot participate in certain parts of a funeral procession: False. A woman should not be disallowed from performing the final rites for her loved ones. Society needs to make way for women to feel included in funeral processions.