November reflection: Bearing the dead...

The Old Men Used to Sing

The old men used to sing
And lifted a brother
Out the door
I used to think they
Were born
Knowing how to
Gently swing
A Casket
They shuffled softly
Eyes dry
More awkward
With the flowers
Than with the widow
After they'd put the
Body in
And stood around waiting
In their
Brown Suits

-Alice Walker in
Revolutionary Petunias and Other Poems

Time was when pall bearers were always men, and only men. Today, men and women, young and old, take up the task of bearing the casket of a loved one into and from the church and then from hearse to grave. Bearing the dead to their place of rest is an ancient and solemn task, one which cannot help but lead the bearers to consider the weight of death that shadows their own unknown future.

It's a bittersweet burden this honorable guard lifts up, carrying a relative or friend to church for the last time and then to a place of rest from which God alone has the voice to waken from the sleep of death to life that never ends.

(Links to prayers and reflections for the month of November)

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1 comment:

  1. When my mother died I encouraged my brother and sisters to bring Mom to the table of the Lord one more time. As she presented us for the sacrament of baptism we offered her back to the Lord. It was a very powerful experience for each of us. We then did the same for our dad.

    I think that this might be a more common custom in other parts of the country but in the northeast, at least in our case, the funeral directors seemed confused by our request.


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