The Pallbearer

 


 

Have you ever been asked to be a pallbearer?  Those who have, consider it an honor and a privilege to be one of those chosen to bear (or carry) the casket of a dearly departed loved one. 

Pallbearers are recognized for their heart as well as for their muscle.  It is important that they are emotionally mature, as well as physically strong.

 

Choosing pallbearers for a loved one’s funeral is akin to selecting groomsmen for a wedding.  Traditionally, pallbearers have been men and they are usually best friends or close relatives of the deceased, such as a brother, son, grandson, nephew, fraternity brother, etc…However, a number of women have successfully played the role.

 

The next-of-kin has an opportunity to name “active” as well as “honorary” pallbearers.  An active pallbearer assists others in carrying the casket, and therefore must be reasonably fit and able to bear considerable weight. In most cases, the pallbearers have to collectively bear over 300 lbs.; the weight of both the decedent and the casket.  Six pallbearers are the standard number needed to carry the casket, but eight or more are sometimes necessary.  An honorary pallbearer is one who is given special mention and recognition, but is not required to assist in carrying the casket. 

This honorary status is reserved for friends or relatives who are elderly, who otherwise could not bear the weight, or for others not chosen to be among the active, first six.

 

The funeral director provides pallbearers with white gloves and instructs them in what to do.  The traditional African-American funeral ceremony begins with the procession; with the minister and the pallbearers leading the family into the church or chapel.  They are reserved special seating and their names are listed in the memorial program.

Agreeing to be an active pallbearer is a commitment that requires one to be on time and to stay for the entire service and interment. 

Pallbearers’ responsibilities may include assisting in carrying  the casket into the church or chapel for the service, as well as to the hearse for the journey to the cemetery.  At the cemetery they help carry the casket from the hearse to the burial site.

 

Active pallbearers are also needed for graveside or cryptside services.  If the family can not provide any or enough pallbearers, the mortuary or cemetery staff are available to assist.  In instances where a memorial service is held and the decedent is not present, active pallbearers are not needed.  At these services, honorary pallbearers can be named in the program and given honorable mention.

 

When someone dear to us dies, we want to do something to show we care for them and their family.  Serving as a pallbearer is a sure demonstration of love and support.