The Day the Pallbearers Dropped the Casket [Caleb Wilde]

November 7, 2013
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Article from Caleb Wilde, CalebWilde.com

The worst thing that every happened at one of our funerals, happened a little over three years ago, during a combination snow and ice storm. We were holding a funeral at an old Catholic church.

In case you aren’t familiar with the architecture of old Catholic churches, allow me to paint you a picture. The buildings themselves are almost always built out of stone, and unlike modern church buildings, are not built with handicap accessibility in mind. In fact, they usually have 10 to 20 steps leading up to the church entrance.

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This particular funeral took place in just such a church, except it had about 25 icy steps from the front door down to the sidewalk. The church was situated on the main street of the town, across from the pharmacy. We parked our hearse at the bottom of the steps, but off to the side.

In some churches, we are able to get in on our own, without any pallbearers. At old churches, pallbearers are a necessity. Luckily, this family bought a rather inexpensive, light casket, because only four pallbearers made it to the funeral. Many people stayed home, unwilling to brave the slick treacherous roads.

After the funeral mass, we called the four pallbearers out of their seats, each grasped a handle of the casket, and carried it to the front door. As we opened the front door and stepped onto the first step, the icy wind slammed into our faces. The lead pallbearer lost his footing on some ice on the top step. To steady himself, he gripped the stair railing, releasing the casket so as not to yank it down with him. As he stumbled, the other front pallbearer hit the same patch of ice, reached for the railing, and let go of the casket, too.

At this point, helplessly watching from behind, I thought, “Well, at least we’ll escape liability” (because of the poorly salted front steps of a negligent church).

You can imagine what happened next. The back two pallbearers couldn’t handle the weight of the casket and let go. It slid down the twenty steps, picking up speed as it went. It sounded like a steam engine as it hit each step with a loud “thump thump thump.” It was flying by the time it reached the bottom. The pallbearers were yelling. We were running, but because of the ice, I couldn’t get enough traction with my dress shoes to catch up to it.

I had no chance of reaching the casket before it hit the road. All I could do was look on as the casket shot across the street and shattered the front window of the small neighborhood pharmacy. The lid popped open when it hit the window (it was a cheaper, non-gasketed casket). The front counter of the pharmacy finally stopped its slide abruptly, ejecting the dead body to a vertical position. The pharmacist, who had been watching the whole event from behind the counter, found himself staring into the eyes of the corpse as it opened its blue dead lips and asked, “Do you have anything to stop this coffin?”

Caleb Wilde

I'm a sixth generation funeral director. I have a grad degree in Missional Theology. And I like to read and write. Connect with my writing and book plans by "liking" me on facebook. And keep tabs with my blog via subscription or twitter.
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