When you are faced with a decision of who you will ask to help carry your loved one to their final resting place you will need to consider several things including but not limited to, symmetry, age and health of the family members, number of available family members, and of course size and weight of the deceased including his or her casket.
Carrying a casket for a loved one is one of the highest honors that can be bestowed upon a family member or close friend. The selection of pallbearers is one of the few parts of the funeral that is left entirely up to the remaining family members to decide.
Normally there are six people who will carry the casket into and out of the church and into the cemetery. Ordinarily they are selected based on symmetry and their physical ability to carry the casket. For instance if you have six men, and four of them are five feet six inches tall and two are six feet tall, its highly likely that the taller men will be in the center on either side of the casket with shorter men on the ends of the casket.
This formation is usually utilized for aesthetic purposes only. There is no special significance to holding onto a particular spot on the casket.
When the deceased is of considerable age it is likely that his or her lifelong friends and remaining loved ones are also quite aged. Although these loved ones are older and possibly in poor health they normally feel extremely honored for simply being asked to carry the casket but often times for health or strength purposes they will decline the invitation. In this situation it might be time to turn to younger family members such as sons or daughters of the deceased or their grandchildren if they are of mature age.
You do not need to be concerned about whether or not your selected pallbearers have any experience carrying caskets in the past because the funeral directors will take a moment with each of them, or all of them as a group to go over what will be expected of them.
Often the pallbearers will be asked to ride in one of the vehicles driven by the funeral home staff to ensure they all arrive at the same time the deceased arrives at their destination. Usually they are transported in a limousine which follows closely behind the hearse.
In cases where the loved ones are not well enough to carry the casket or no family member is old enough or strong enough to do so some other options are often available. If you make your funeral director aware of the problem with a shortage of appropriate pall bearers, often they can substitute as a pallbearer, or other funeral home staff can assist. Your funeral director is there to assist you in any way that they can.
In some cases the casket is carried entirely by the funeral home staff, while in other cases one or two funeral directors will work together with four family members to fill up the extra space.