Being asked to form part of the pallbearers ensemble at a loved-one's funeral is an honour, but it can also be a daunting prospect if you've never done it before. The funeral director and his assistants will give you guidance and instruction on the day, but in the meantime, here's a quick overview of how you'll be asked to carry the coffin.
Whenever the coffin is moved, it should always be done with the foot end first. This means that the coffin will have the foot end facing the driver when it's in the hearse. Although the reason for this is symbolic, as it represents the deceased walking on to the next place, there are also practical reasons. When moving the body, it's important to keep the head end of the coffin raised slightly to prevent purging; purging is the term used to describe the escape of fluids from a body.
When removing the coffin from the hearse, always face the coffin. This makes it much easier to see what you're doing and is the easiest way to manoeuvre the casket.
Moving the coffin
The coffin should always be turned in a clockwise direction to symbolise the turning of the hands on a clock and the passage of time.
When it comes to wheeling the coffin, always use the thumbscrews on the top and not the handles; this saves you having to bend down, and also gives you much better grip and therefore more control.
Carrying the coffin
When carrying the coffin, it's important to keep in step with the other members of the pall bearing party. To do this, just watch the person in front of you and copy them. If you are situated at the foot end (front) of the coffin, keep in step with the funeral director or priest, whoever is in leading the coffin.
It's very important to keep the coffin level, and the funeral director will situate the pallbearers so that their height is evenly distributed. If the coffin stays level, it looks more dignified and prevents flowers or other items from sliding off.
When carrying the coffin, only use one handle and use the hand that is closest to the coffin.
This is a general overview of what to expect when acting as a pallbearer at a loved-one's funeral. Although this can be daunting, don't stress too much; the funeral director and their assistants will give you thorough instruction before the day. For more information, contact a business such as Caring Funerals.