The honorary position of pallbearer is historic, ceremonial, and complementary. While the actual responsibilities vary, there are some aspects which do not.
It is common to ask those who were close to this person in life to be the last to handle them for their final moments as they are laid to rest. Pallbearers may be male or female; family, friends, religious or business associates. They are important people to the family. Historically, close family members were not asked to be pallbearers, however this has changed in the last few generations, and often close family members do serve. In most cases, those selected are young and able to meet the physical requirements, however this, too, is changing as many directors utilize wheeled carts for transport.
In most cases, there will be six pallbearers. However, by utilizing the additional supports at front and back of the casket, it is possible to have eight in attendance.
Since it is an honor to be asked to help in this way, good etiquette calls for accepting the request if it is at all possible to attend. In some cases, even those who are not in good enough health to lift and carry are still asked to be part of the procession. These are known as honorary pallbearers. It is also possible that the pallbearers may accompany the casket as it is rolled on a cart. They may not need to lift or carry at all, or it may only be for a short distance.
However, you and the family must both keep in mind that there are practical issues when selecting those who will surround the casket. An empty casket may weigh as much as 300 pounds. Those serving may be called upon to carry over rough, uneven ground at the cemetery, and if you simply are not capable of this, your concerns should be expressed. There is nothing wrong with asking what will be expected of you before you decide.
If you are asked and have accepted the honor, plan to arrive early to get direction. Although today we are more relaxed in our attire for most occasions, this is one situation where a suit is preferred. If you are female, custom calls for a dark pantsuit or dress. While attendees may dress more casually, wear your best on this occasion out of respect. If you don’t have a suit, you may borrow one. You will be told where to park, as pallbearers will enter the funeral procession directly behind the family. You will be seated in the front row, since after the service, the family and friends will be dismissed from the back forward. This will leave you able to remain close by as the family passes by, and then help move the casket to the hearse for its final journey.
As cremation becomes more popular, honorary pallbearers are asked to accompany the person carrying an urn to its final resting place. Although the physical demands are different, the symbolic statement is the same: This is my last act of service to my friend or loved one.
When you are asked to be a pallbearer, keep in mind the honor which has been bestowed on you. Serving the family in such a way demonstrates your respect and love for their loved one. Keep this in mind as you go through your day.
Ascension Funeral Group serves the Mobile, Alabama area and Saraland, Alabama area with funeral and cremation services, grief support, pre-planning, and more. Visit us online at www.AscensionFuneralGroup.com. Call us anytime at (251) 634-8055 or connect with Ascension Funeral Home & Crematory and Forest Lawn Funeral Home on Facebook and Twitter!
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