Roles of Pallbearers - Transcribed
Our episodes of the Good Grief Podcast include a transcript of the episode’s audio for people who are deaf or hard of hearing, if you’d like to scan the material, or have low bandwidth. The text is the output of AI based transcribing from an audio recording. Although the transcription is largely accurate, in some cases it is incomplete or inaccurate due to inaudible passages or transcription errors and should not be treated as an authoritative record.
Roles of Pallbearers – Transcribed
[00:00:00] Pete Waggoner: Hello everybody. Welcome to the Good Grief Podcast right here with the O’Connell Family Funeral Homes. We could be found right online at https://oconnellfuneralhomes.com/. Be sure to check it out and there’s lots of great resources for you that aren’t just built around what you need to do for a funeral or planning, anything like that.
[00:00:20] Pete Waggoner: There’s other great things that are a part of it too. Reaching out to the community and making it a better place. For sure. We’re gonna get into today’s topic, which is what it means to be a Pallbearer, and I’m looking forward to this one for sure. Amber Miller will join us right around the band after this break.
[00:00:40] Pete Waggoner: More and more people are pre-planning their funerals to save their loved ones the stress of having to plan after an emotional loss. If you’re thinking of planning for your funeral, but are unsure where to start, you can head to the website, https://oconnellfuneralhomes.com/ for some free resources. There are “10 things to think about before your funeral PDF” comes with a handy worksheet for [00:01:00] collecting your thoughts. Some of them might even surprise you. When the time comes and you’re ready to take the next step or just ask some questions, our team is here to help you take away the guesswork. At any point, you can call the schedule an appointment to sit down with a qualified pre-planning specialist.
[00:01:15] Pete Waggoner: Head over to the website to check out their resources and to set a no obligation appointment.
[00:01:20] Pete Waggoner: Now back to our podcast.
[00:01:23] Pete Waggoner: Hello, Amber.
[00:01:24] Amber Miller: Hi.
[00:01:24] Pete Waggoner: How are you?
[00:01:25] Amber Miller: Good. How are you?
[00:01:25] Pete Waggoner: Awesome, thank you.
[00:01:26] Amber Miller: Good.
[00:01:26] Pete Waggoner: I saw this topic and right away I kind of perked up, didn’t I?
[00:01:31] Amber Miller: Yes, you did.
[00:01:32] Pete Waggoner: Well, what it means to be a Pallbearer, I mean, this is a really fascinating topic to me, and with more and more cremations, I think that you see there are less and less opportunities to be a Pallbearer.
[00:01:43] Amber Miller: Sure.
[00:01:44] Pete Waggoner: And so you kind of, it’s not front of conscious as much as it used to be. But there are plenty of questions to ask about that. So there’s obviously an origination for this.
[00:01:53] Pete Waggoner: Where did that come from?
[00:01:55] Amber Miller: Well, the word Pallbearer comes from the word pall, which is essentially the white cloth that’s [00:02:00] traditionally draped over the casket during a funeral service or a mass. And it goes back to signify the white garments worn during baptism. So in the middle ages, pallbearers actually carried the pall, not necessarily the casket.
[00:02:13] Amber Miller: So they carried the four corners of the pall, thus bearing the pall.
[00:02:17] Pete Waggoner: Unfolded, right?
[00:02:17] Amber Miller: Once it was, yeah. Unfolded on the casket.
[00:02:19] Pete Waggoner: And they’d walk to the four corners.
[00:02:20] Amber Miller: Absolutely. And lift it up so that they actual physical casket bearers could lift the casket.
[00:02:26] Pete Waggoner: Okay. And so then in that instance they, you obviously didn’t want it to hit the ground.
[00:02:29] Amber Miller: So there’s two separate groups.
[00:02:30] Pete Waggoner: And so there were then casket carriers basically.
[00:02:33] Amber Miller: Yep. Mm-hmm.
[00:02:33] Pete Waggoner: And then it’s been lumped.
[00:02:35] Amber Miller: Yeah. Now the two terms are kind of joined and merged to be either casket carers or pallbearers. Same terminology for the same duty.
[00:02:44] Pete Waggoner: So do the Pallbearers today, which do serve as casket bearers, I’ve never really paid attention. I don’t know what’s wrong with me, but do they do that with the four corners too, or no?
[00:02:54] Amber Miller: No. So typically a casket bearer is how you think of in terms of physically lifting the casket.
[00:02:59] Pete Waggoner: [00:03:00] Pulling it out.
[00:03:01] Amber Miller: Right. Yep. So, lifting it into the coach or hearse and then lifting it at the cemetery.
[00:03:06] Amber Miller: So typically the pall aspect is either done by the church, by the funeral home, by the family.
[00:03:12] Pete Waggoner: What does it mean to be a casket bearer?
[00:03:14] Amber Miller: Well, it can be immediate family though we don’t normally see it. Usually it’s either extended family, so it could be grandkids, it could be nieces and nephews. It could be close friends and family. But it’s however the family wishes.
[00:03:29] Pete Waggoner: Have you seen a trend in how people make those determinations? Is it maybe someone that was closer to the individual within the family if they had a lot of options? Do people lobby for the position seriously, right? Yeah. I mean, do they?
[00:03:44] Amber Miller: You know, sometimes, and sometimes depending on the size of the family. We’ll kind of get into this later too, there can be two different groups of people. There can be casket bearers that physically are doing the lifting, and there’s some that can be what we call honorary. So we’ve seen a lot of different people there. Sometimes it’s all [00:04:00] within the family, so grandchildren or nieces and nephews, and sometimes it’s just all friends or all coworkers or something like that.
[00:04:07] Pete Waggoner: And it just depends, right? Who’s making those decisions? Do you find in pre-planning, some people say, Hey, if John Doe is around, I’d like him or her to do it.
[00:04:16] Amber Miller: Uhhuh. Mm-hmm.
[00:04:17] Pete Waggoner: Okay. So that comes, that can be part of that.
[00:04:19] Amber Miller: Right, right. And oftentimes if they’re pre-planning, they say, oh, I want my grandkids or something. Or they list people that are especially important to them.
[00:04:27] Pete Waggoner: How many typically are there?
[00:04:28] Amber Miller: Typically there’s six, but we’ve had of up upmost of eight. And then if there’s any more than that, sometimes people do honorary too. So maybe they’re these six people or these eight people, and then these other four people are gonna be designated as honorary.
[00:04:42] Pete Waggoner: Do you find if there’s like a seven footer, like a big person that you do need to definitely go to eight? Or does that not matter?
[00:04:50] Amber Miller: You know, it doesn’t necessarily matter that way, but because eight, while it works just fine, it tends to be spacing on the casket. So six gives [00:05:00] the casket bearer enough room to be able to hold and grip the handle safely and to be able to move to wherever it needs to go.
[00:05:06] Amber Miller: Whereas eight, people tend to be kind of crunched in and they have a little less mobility.
[00:05:11] Pete Waggoner: Okay. Can I ask a question there?
[00:05:12] Amber Miller: Sure.
[00:05:12] Pete Waggoner: It’s just way off the grid here, but I need to ask you, so how much weight does a typical person or body lose when they’re all prepared and put into the casket.
[00:05:26] Amber Miller: Mm-hmm.
[00:05:26] Pete Waggoner: So if you’re round number’s, a 200 pounder at death, what does that translate to? What’s going into the casket and weight, what do you think?
[00:05:34] Amber Miller: I wouldn’t say that there’d be any sort of pound difference.
[00:05:36] Pete Waggoner: So if you’re heavy, that’s when you go to the eight.
[00:05:38] Amber Miller: Yep. Exactly. And then you have to take into account the weight of the casket.
[00:05:41] Pete Waggoner: Well, I mean, but just, just being honest, you know, Uhhuh. Yeah.
[00:05:44] Pete Waggoner: So how do you have that conversation saying, you know, we got kind of big here, we gotta, we need a couple more people.
[00:05:49] Amber Miller: Well, and usually the family kind of knows that they already, right. And they say, we’re choosing some ca bearers that are good lifters.
[00:05:54] Pete Waggoner: Yeah, Pete’s a little chubby, so, no, just kidding.
[00:05:58] Pete Waggoner: But that’s me of [00:06:00] course, for those who are listening.
[00:06:01] Pete Waggoner: Okay. Well, good to know. And then, I’ve seen one person handling an urn in a cremation case. How’s that handled?
[00:06:11] Amber Miller: So we get that question often from families is ‘Do I need casket bearers even though my loved one is being cremated?’ No. However, there’s still an option to do that.
[00:06:20] Amber Miller: So they can either be all honorary. Meaning that they don’t do any of kind of the physical components of casket bearers, or they can actually do something. So some families say, well, I want them to participate in the service as a casket bearer. So they could physically carry the urn either down the aisle to the altar.
[00:06:40] Amber Miller: We also have here at O’Connell’s, a cart that we call the Romera, which we signify as remembrance that the urn sits on and on wheels. So casket bearers can do exactly the same thing as they do for a casket. So they can process the casket or the urn in and out of the sanctuary, down and back to the altar.
[00:06:57] Amber Miller: They can physically lift it like they would a [00:07:00] casket into a coach or hurst. It’s pretty neat if you haven’t seen it yet.
[00:07:03] Pete Waggoner: I bailed on this responsibility for my mother. For the very reason of there was no such, I would, if that was there, I would’ve done it. But I was afraid I would drop it. Because I was not, I wasn’t like, flipped out or anything like that, but I just, that’s a lot of responsibility.
[00:07:22] Amber Miller: Yeah.
[00:07:22] Pete Waggoner: This is crazy, but can it open up or is it sealed? How does that work?
[00:07:27] Amber Miller: An urn?
[00:07:28] Pete Waggoner: Yeah. Yeah.
[00:07:28] Amber Miller: So usually an urn is sealed, so whether it’s the top is screwed on or the bottom kind of comes off on wooden urns.
[00:07:36] Amber Miller: And then all of our urns also have a bag inside. So if you kind of.
[00:07:40] Pete Waggoner: You’re okay.
[00:07:41] Amber Miller: Yep. So if something happens, it’s not gonna be a meet the parents moment that people have in the back of their head.
[00:07:48] Pete Waggoner: Which I did.
[00:07:48] Amber Miller: Yeah.
[00:07:49] Pete Waggoner: So thank you for that.
[00:07:51] Amber Miller: Yep.
[00:07:51] Pete Waggoner: But that was like, I really didn’t want to do that because the incline where our church was, is enough on the way in. I just didn’t want that. I made my [00:08:00] brother do it.
[00:08:00] Amber Miller: Right. Well, it’s a lot of pressure.
[00:08:01] Pete Waggoner: I didn’t want that.
[00:08:02] Amber Miller: You’re nervous. Your palms are sweaty.
[00:08:03] Pete Waggoner: Right. And I, like, I didn’t want anything to do with it, but what a cool experience. Like if it was on that little cart, that would be amazing to be able to do.
[00:08:10] Amber Miller: Yeah. Yeah.
[00:08:11] Pete Waggoner: Absolutely. And then take it straight outside and get it to where you need to go. That’s amazing.
[00:08:15] Pete Waggoner: How about age and gender? I mean, I assume it would be open to anything, right?
[00:08:21] Amber Miller: Yeah. Yeah. We get that question just as often as, do I need casket bearers if there’s cremation, can women be casket bearers? Absolutely. More and more people are going that route, especially for grandsons, granddaughters. So there’s no limit or rule that says that needs to be all men.
[00:08:41] Pete Waggoner: Yeah. It’s not like an unwritten, you know, well man does that type of thing. So it’s good for anybody. And do you find with kids, is there an age level or a height type thing where you gotta kind of say, maybe a little young and short for that?
[00:08:54] Amber Miller: Yeah, and we would kind of chat with the family about it when we’re discussing casket bearers, but I have seen kids like, [00:09:00] 15, 16, 17, participate.
[00:09:03] Amber Miller: Anything less than that, I think could be hard in terms of the physical component of it.
[00:09:08] Pete Waggoner: Would you allow them to help where if you had absolutely six, they could be a seventh that’s just has a hand on it or something?
[00:09:13] Amber Miller: Yep, yep. They can be honorary. We see that just as common.
[00:09:16] Pete Waggoner: Super, super sick.
[00:09:16] Amber Miller: Maybe six adults, and then the children are the honoraries.
[00:09:20] Pete Waggoner: What about cultural differences in casket bearers?
[00:09:23] Amber Miller: Yeah. And I think that’s where some of the questions come into play. Especially just most recently with Queen Elizabeth’s death, that was obviously televised and everyone watched her funeral and we could see the casket bearers physically lift the casket onto their shoulders.
[00:09:37] Amber Miller: And we get that question a lot.
[00:09:39] Pete Waggoner: That’s big time.
[00:09:40] Amber Miller: Right? Do my casket bearers need to lift onto their shoulders? Oh, that makes me really nervous. We don’t do that custom here, but others do.
[00:09:48] Pete Waggoner: That’s more on the other side of the pond, up and down. You see it. Is that because they want to elevate the person? Is there a reason? Is there something behind that?
[00:09:56] Amber Miller: I mean, I was kind of trying to do some research on why. I think it’s more [00:10:00] like a kind of a respect thing that they’re physically doing. They’re putting that entire, you know, like it’s a more kind of lifting and physical, whether it’s, cause they have to really get down and get it up on their shoulders.
[00:10:12] Pete Waggoner: Well, I think the military does it that way.
[00:10:14] Amber Miller: Yes. Yes.
[00:10:15] Pete Waggoner: Here.
[00:10:15] Amber Miller: Yes.
[00:10:15] Pete Waggoner: But that’s the only spot.
[00:10:17] Amber Miller: Yeah, that’s the only place I’ve really seen it.
[00:10:18] Pete Waggoner: Let’s be honest, the rest of us out here just turned in that kind of condition.
[00:10:21] Amber Miller: Well, and I know in the caskets, especially abroad, and in the older times, they didn’t have handles like the normal caskets do now.
[00:10:29] Pete Waggoner: There you go.
[00:10:29] Amber Miller: So that’s where the custom really came from, is that they physically had to put it on their shoulders because there wasn’t a handle to grab.
[00:10:35] Pete Waggoner: And so then when you lower it down, you have to really like, bend down with your knees and, and get it there.
[00:10:40] Amber Miller: Yep. Sometimes they use like straps or ropes or pulleys to kind of lower it into the grave.
[00:10:45] Pete Waggoner: That’s pretty crazy, isn’t it?
[00:10:46] Amber Miller: Yeah. Isn’t it?
[00:10:48] Pete Waggoner: The one theme that I’ve noticed in here is that we started with pallbearers is the title, but then as we went through, in your preparation, it was referred to as casket bearers.
[00:10:57] Amber Miller: Yeah.
[00:10:58] Pete Waggoner: Is that something that you’re using as a [00:11:00] term here at O’Connell Funeral Homes?
[00:11:01] Amber Miller: I think it’s interchangeable. Sometimes I kind of go with whatever is comfortable for the family. I’m more inclined to use the casket bearer term just because physically, it’s the casket bearer versus the Pallbearer because oftentimes, maybe families or services aren’t incorporating a pall is part of their funeral ritual.
[00:11:17] Pete Waggoner: So from a definitions perspective, that makes a heck of a lot of sense.
[00:11:21] Amber Miller: Right.
[00:11:21] Pete Waggoner: And, you know, I don’t know if, I don’t wanna say there’s a negative or a scary connotation to the term Pallbearer.
[00:11:28] Amber Miller: Mm-hmm.
[00:11:28] Pete Waggoner: You know?
[00:11:28] Amber Miller: Yeah.
[00:11:29] Pete Waggoner: I do think Casket Bearer is a lot more inviting.
[00:11:32] Amber Miller: Right. Really. Right.
[00:11:33] Pete Waggoner: Just in terms of hearing it, you know? Pallbearer is just kind of…
[00:11:37] Amber Miller: It’s an older term. A little bit more depth.
[00:11:39] Pete Waggoner: Right, right, right, right. But that’s great.
[00:11:40] Pete Waggoner: So this is great stuff and I think the one thing to take away from this, I always go to the pre-planning thing. I am big on that. I think this is a great exercise where you can reach out to people and say, you know what?
[00:11:51] Pete Waggoner: You’re really important to me in my life, and I’d like you to be a part of this. And this is what I want you to do.
[00:11:56] Amber Miller: Yeah. Right. Yeah.
[00:11:58] Pete Waggoner: What a great way to, to cement that [00:12:00] in.
[00:12:00] Amber Miller: Right? Plenty of people do pre-planning and have already listed their casket bearers and have it all set. It’s a great way and good thing to put down.
[00:12:07] Pete Waggoner: That’s fantastic, Amber. Good stuff. We talked about Pallbearers, Casket bearers.
[00:12:11] Amber Miller: Yep, same thing.
[00:12:12] Pete Waggoner: No, I know. I know. Thank you for sure. Absolutely. That’s gonna do it for this edition. We can’t wait to see you back next month as we’ll have another great topic for you from the O’Connell Family Funeral Homes, and you can check us out on online at https://oconnellfuneralhomes.com/.
[00:12:25] Pete Waggoner: Amber, have yourself a great weekend.
[00:12:27] Amber Miller: Thanks, you too.
[00:12:28] Pete Waggoner: Thank you.
[00:12:29] Pete Waggoner: We hope you enjoyed this episode, and if you did, we’d greatly appreciate if you left us a review on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or share this episode with your friends. Please don’t hesitate to tell us what topics you would like us to cover in future episodes, and you can do so by leaving a comment in the comment section or send us a message on social media.
[00:12:48] Pete Waggoner: We’ll see you next month.