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I was asked to be a pallbearer...and have never been.
Old 12-07-2009, 08:57 AM   #1
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I was asked to be a pallbearer...and have never been.

I'm sure my responsibilities will be explained to me by a funeral director, but I'm a bit nervous.

My wife's grandfather passed today and his sister asked me (much to my surprise) if I would be a pallbearer. Of course I accepted. He is a decorated military man (purple heart) and as such, it will be a full military funeral.

Just curious what all this entails other than the obvious carrying of the casket.

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Old 12-07-2009, 08:59 AM   #2
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Be sure that your shoelaces are tied tightly. Seriously, I was one for my grandfather and FIL and there was not much to it. They explained what we were to do and when the time came we were motioned forward and did our job. Maybe for a military funeral it is more involved.
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Old 12-07-2009, 09:16 AM   #3
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As you have the role of being a non-military person (e.g. family member, who has the privilege of escorting the casket), you will have nothing more to do than what is done in a regular service.

You will simply carry the casket (and usually place it on a dolly) from the funeral home outside to the hearse. You will do the same from the hearse to any religious ceremony (usually just from the hearse to the dolly, and it will be wheeled in by the funeral director). The same will be done at the cemetery.

Depending on the military escort (could be as little as two, or as many as eight), they will be responsible (at the grave site) for honors (rifle salute), folding of the flag, and presentation to the selected family member.

While you may have concerns, don't worry about it. You are offering your personal support to the family and more importantly to a vet who (IMHO) has earned the honor.

I've been a member of a military honor guard (hey - even we rehearsed so we didn't screw up), but you won't have to. It may sound intimidating but don't worry about it; that won't be your role as a "civilian".
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Old 12-07-2009, 09:17 AM   #4
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The funeral Director will tell you what to do. I always considered it an honor to be asked to be Pallbearer.
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Old 12-07-2009, 09:30 AM   #5
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I'm sorry for your family's loss.
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Old 12-07-2009, 09:37 AM   #6
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I'm sorry for your family's loss.
Same here and there is nothing to be nervous about. It will be explained to you and there is really not much to it.
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Old 12-07-2009, 11:48 AM   #7
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Sorry for your loss.

It's an honor you were asked to be a part of this. I'm sure you will do fine.
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Old 12-07-2009, 12:39 PM   #8
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Same here and there is nothing to be nervous about. It will be explained to you and there is really not much to it.
Frank was a pallbearer for his uncle, and then his father. (It has been a sad few years lately.) Although these were not military funerals, I would say that Dawg52 is right. I know that he was not informed of anything until right before the funeral, which was at the funeral home right after the visitation. Someone, either the priest or funeral director (I don't recall) gathered the pallbearers just before the funeral, took them in another room, and explained everything.

He did a wonderful job. He didn't have to actually carry anything but just walked alongside the cart/gurney that the casket was on. It only LOOKS like they are carrying the casket, these days. As I recall, he came back to sit next to me during the mass. But they will tell you what you are expected to do.

Basically you will be fine as long as you dress nicely and don't act silly.
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Old 12-07-2009, 12:55 PM   #9
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The Fed,
It is an honor to be asked. Your duties likely will be as described by others...i.e., you escort the casket from the funeral home to the hearse; from the hearse to the front of the church if a religious service is involved; then from the church to the hearse for the transport to the final resting place. The funeral director will explain exactly what you duties are.

BTW, This is one of those times you absolutely should wear that lovely black suit, white shirt and tie.
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Old 12-07-2009, 03:50 PM   #10
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Yep...what the others have said....pallbearers carry the casket from the funeral home or church to the hearse, and then from the hearse to the gravesite or mausoleum. Each funeral director has his/her own particulars, but all are more or less the same, and they will tell you the details at the proper time.

Also (around here anyway) the pallbearers ride in a limo directly behind the hearse, so they can move the casket into position in a timely fashion before the deceased's family and friends exit their respective vehicles. I've been a pall-bearer many times over the years for family and friends, and everything has always gone very smoothly, so there's no need to be nervous.

The first time I was a pallbearer was at my Grandfather's second wife's funeral. It was at one of the oldest funeral parlors in town...a big ol' mansion...and the funeral director/owner was about 95 at the time. He gave us instructions just prior to the funeral service, and had us sit in the hallway just outside the room where the service was to take place. Right toward the very end of the service he quietly asked if any of us had any questions. My cousin raised his hand, and asked the old timer if he had any last minute instructions for us. The old guy said "Only one thing....don't drop the casket! The old girl won't know that you dropped her, but everyone else will think you're an idiot!"
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Old 12-07-2009, 06:18 PM   #11
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The weight may be more than you expect, especially if the others are elderly. happened to me. Be ready.

It is an honor. I have done it twice.
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Old 12-07-2009, 07:00 PM   #12
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well thanks for the words of encouragement.

re: my suit. i dont actually have a white shirt....i have a cream colored dress shirt and mild patterned tie. should i go get a white one?

EDIT: It's also supposed to be about 15 degrees the morning of the actual funeral, and i have no 'dress' coat....just a waist length leather. i was thinking thermals underneath, but im not sure that'll cut it? time to buy a 3/4 length dress coat?
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Old 12-07-2009, 07:22 PM   #13
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You will be fine. No one will remember what you wear. Just watch your footing and be careful. No kidding its heavy.
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Old 12-07-2009, 07:37 PM   #14
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well, my MIL just called to tell me she has a full length cashmere black calvin klein coat if i need it....fil's....perfect
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