New York State Funeral Directors Association

I was a young teen when my good friend’s grandfather passed away, and, as was typical for me, I didn’t know what to do or say.

So being asked to serve as a pallbearer on the day of the funeral was fulfilling. I felt that I could, at the very least, play some role during that difficult day.

It didn’t take long until I realized how difficult the day was going to be.


The large, Italian family had no shortage of people able to handle the task.

So it was a special honor for me to be able to help carry the casket of the man who’d gone to great lengths to take care of his family.

I was one of six people who walked up to the top of the stairs and grabbed hold of a handle.

At first, it wasn’t too bad.

But before we all got to the hearse, the weight seemed to suddenly double.

I was lanky and not very strong and before long what started out as fatigue turned to pain.

My arm was going numb and I could feel the large handle slipping downwards.

After briefly considering the horror that would ensue were I to let go, I locked my fingers together under the weight of the handle.

I glanced back behind me to see if I might figure out what happened.

The other pall bearer – a direct relative of the deceased – wasn’t struggling at all.

It appeared as though he was actually leaning on the casket, not holding it up.

It may have only been a three-minute procession, or more, I can’t really remember – but it seemed more like an hour.

When it was over, I let out a sigh of relief and thanked God for listening to me.

I was praying the whole time that my arms and fingers wouldn’t give way.


I think about this situation every time I go to a funeral now – but I haven’t really come up with a solution to this dilemma.

I’ll bet it happens all the time.

I still look back thankful that I didn’t drop it – it would have turned my pride at being able to help into complete self-disgust.

I do hope that folks, when they’re organizing details for a funeral, consider more than just someone’s willingness to play a role when selecting pall bearers.

I was just barely strong enough to participate if there were a total of six people on the job.

So I’d like to suggest that family members – or whoever chooses pall bearers for funerals – be sure those you choose are strong enough to handle it.

From what I’ve seen, close relatives like brothers or sons are most-often chosen to serve as pall bearers; and I agree with that idea.

But if there is someone in that group of close relatives who is known to have medical issues that limit their abilities – I would suggest you leave that relative out of the pall bearer team.

Otherwise, they will – like the guy behind me at that funeral – forever be remembered as the one who was leaning on the casket instead of carrying it.


If you are asked to serve as a pallbearer, and have questions, ask your funeral director for some guidance.

There are many resources available to learn more about being a pallbearer, below are links to a few of them:

EdsPhotoEdward Munger Jr.
Communications & Social Media Specialist
NYS Funeral Directors Association