Who I Want for My Pallbearers

beaverdamusa.com, mark grissom, chicago cubs“Gentlemen, please step up to the casket…take a firm hold on the handle…and all lift together.  Watch your step and just follow the minister to the gravesite.”

If I had a dollar for every time I had said that phrase in my 30 plus year career in the funeral business…I would have several thousand dollars. Those are the words, (just about the same every single funeral), that I tell the pallbearers who are providing the honors of carrying the deceased for the very last time.

The word “pallbearer” is used to describe one of several participants who help carry the casket of a deceased person from the place of the funeral to the mausoleum or graveside. Pallbearer comes from the days when, in the early church, the casket always had a covering over it called a pall.

Thus, individuals were used to “bear” the coffin the “pall” covered. A pall is still used today in the Roman Catholic Church, the Episcopal Church, Lutheran Church and most of the time in the United Methodist Church.

Most individuals do not know the significance of the pall.

I learned what it was years ago.

I absolutely love the idea of the casket pall.

A pall is almost like a very large blanket made of the finest material and usually has a cross-embroidered on the top.  It is made large enough to cover the entire casket.

The purpose of the pall is…no matter who you are, no matter how much money you have or do not have, no matter how expensive or inexpensive your casket is…we are ALL on the same level when we enter the house of the Lord.

Absolutely incredible.

Before I get too emotional…back to the pallbearers.

Most families use six men to carry the casket of their loved one to their final resting place.

Most of the time those men are six of the closest friends of the deceased.

That has always amazed me. The deceased and the casket together weigh a whole lot. Most of the time, the total weight will be in excess of 350 to 400 pounds.

Most of the time, the gravesite is up a steep hill and it is truly a struggle for those six men to carry the casket to the final resting place.

I have often wondered, and said to many pallbearers over the years, why is it that the family would not pick six of the deceased’s “worst enemies” and make them carry that casket?

But I get it. I understand.

When my mom, God rest her soul, passed away December of 2010, my dad and I already had the pallbearers picked out: her grandson, her nephews and one close friend in ministry for many, many years.

The family asks me a lot of times, “can we use our own family members to be pallbearers?”

The answer is simple…yes!

Pallbearers, over the years, have consisted of children of the deceased, brothers, cousins, fishing buddies, motorcycle brothers, work associates and fellow classmates.

There have been times that women are used to serve as pallbearers. Not many.

Please don’t get mad at me, ladies…but you are just not as strong as the male population. If we use one or two females for pallbearers, we generally ask them to be in the middle section of the casket.

(Note to editor:  You WILL get emails about the previous comment.)

Whenever we have the funeral of a little baby, a small “infant casket” is used that can be carried by one individual. When we arrive at the cemetery, I approach the father of the infant and ask them would they like to carry their child to the gravesite.

The answer, for over 30 years, has always been…Yes.

I can assure you, when those in attendance look and see the dad carrying their small baby to the grave all by himself, there is not a dry eye in the crowd.

Including…me.

Here are some thoughts you should remember if you are ever asked to serve as a pallbearer of a close friend or loved one.

Arrive at least 30 minutes early to the funeral home or church.

Ask the funeral director where you should put your car in the processional line-up.

You will be given instructions by the funeral director or his/her assistant as to where you will be seated and when you will be needed for the service.

It is always nice when the pallbearers stand together by the casket at the gravesite.

After the service at the cemetery is over, please follow the minister and greet the family one last time.

Remember, you are among an elite group of six individuals that have been chosen by the family to carry their loved one for the very last time. I have given it much thought as to whom I would use to serve as my pallbearers when the Lord calls me home.

The answer is very simple.

Six men from the Bank of Cleveland.

They carried me all my life.

They should carry me in death.

Until next time…Go Cubs!

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About Mark Grissom

Mark was born on the north side of Chicago in 1964. Raised a Cubs fan by his dad, he never had a chance in life. He moved to Cleveland, Tennessee, in 1988. While he lives closer to Atlanta now, he will never be able to leave the religion of "Cubbie Nation." Baptized as a Cubs fan at the age of five, he has no choice but to live the remainder of his life here on earth in mediocrity at its best!

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