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My Pallbearers

John W. Pinkerton


A pallbearer is one who carries or attends a coffin at a funeral.      Usually these are men, often relatives, often friends.  Most folks I suspect don’t take the time to choose their pallbearers before the oops moment when they realize it’s too late to worry about it.  Being a thoughtful fellow, I’ve decided to save the widow Pinkerton the task of choosing these fellows.  It’s also a call to my potential pallbearers to be on standby for what I hope is a very long time.  Announcing these names now would serve as a relief to those not chosen, but I don’t want to jump the gun.  Now, of course, there is always the possibility of offending folks who think they should be on my list.  Don’t fret.  I’ve chosen these fellows because of what they have in common with each other, not with me: they’re all much younger than I am--from twenty-five to forty years younger.

I’ve only been a pallbearer twice: for my father and more recently my good neighbor Inez.  Dad had remarried.  She was Catholic and the service for Dad, although a Methodist, was conducted by an Irish priest whose big red Irish face looked exactly like my dad’s.   It was a bit odd being under the impression that my father conducted his own funeral.  All in all, it was a strange day among strangers.  Half of the pallbearers chosen by Dad’s widow were Dad’s sons: my brother and my half brother and me.  The other half were the widow’s sons.  On one side of the coffin were three guys in three piece suits; on the other side were three fellows not wearing three piece suits.  At any rate, we got him to the graveside.  It’s surprising how heavy a coffin with one old Irishman in it can be.  As for Inez, she didn’t weigh much; she was my friend.  It was an honor to bear her coffin.

A good friend of ours, a lady, listed her pallbearers to me one day.  They all were people I knew she didn’t care for; in fact, “abhorred” might be the appropriate word.  When I asked her about her strange choices, she said she wanted them to have to bear the weight of carrying her to her grave, not her friends, a well thought out plan.

My potential pallbearers were the inspiration for my beginning to write essays.  I thought it would be amusing to have a gift for them at the funeral which, more or less, gave me the final word.  I’ve decided to choose friends instead of enemies.  Most of these fellows know each other.  They should feel pretty comfortable in each other’s company.  I think it would be a good occasion for them to socialize with each other and have a few chuckles.

I’m pretty sure these fellows would rankle at the thought of being thought of as my sons.  But the truth is, I think of them that way.  Linda and I never had children, something I’ve never regretted, but that doesn’t keep me from feeling the way I do.  Although I know they don’t look at me as a father figure,  I do look at them as fellows I would have been proud to have had as sons.  However, they are all too smart and too principled to be my progeny.

The one characteristic that these fellows share with each other is courage.  Each one has displayed this trait.  The other characteristic they each share is a sense of humor.  Each has made me laugh on more than one occasion.

Now, of course, these fellows are not the only friends I have made over the years, but these are the fellows I would like to have bear me to the grave.

I realize that not all of these fellows will be available when the time comes.  Heck, they have lives, and I’m pretty sure that burying John is not high on their list of priorities.  If only six show up, that’s enough: like I said, they’re young.  If seven show up, six can carry the casket and the seventh can ride atop.  I don’t weigh much.

There are friends who live too far away to participate in the funeral but have had a significant impact on my life.  I assume you know who you are and I appreciate the impact you had on my life when I was much younger.


Friends are funny things; it’s easy to make friends when we’re young.  So a warning to all of you: the friends you make early in life are likely to be your friends for the rest of your life.

Once one is grown and working, we may make a lot of friendly associates, but for some reason, real friends don’t happen very often.  I’m not sure why this is so.  Maybe it’s that through experience we become more cautious about “others.”

I may be more inclined to make friends because I moved away from the area where most of my relatives live.  I occasionally see some of these folks, but, honestly, I don’t miss them much.  I’m not sure why, but I seem to think of friends as family.  There’s nothing wrong with my real family.  They’re perfectly nice folks, but I feel closer to folks I consider my friends.

I haven’t made my arrangements for my burial yet, but writing this essay is probably a good exercise.  Making my funeral arrangements is on my to-do list.

I think it would be too early to include the names and the explanations for their inclusion in my list of pallbearers.  I’ve got all that written out for the widow Pinkerton.  Besides, I like to keep my readers in suspense.

I went to the internet to see if I could find a funny quote of or about a pallbearer; it was slim pickin’s:

I get my exercise acting as a pallbearer to my friends who exercise.

- Chauncey Depew

However, I did find some funny quotes about funerals in general:

I had a friend who was a clown.  When he died, all his friends went to the funeral in one car.

- Steven Wright

A funeral eulogy is a belated plea for the defense

delivered after the evidence is all in.

- Irvin S. Cobb

In the city a funeral is just an interruption of traffic;

in the country it is a form of popular entertainment.

- George Ade

If anyone at my funeral has a long face, I'll never speak to him again.

- Stan Laurel

The reason so many people turned up at his funeral is that they wanted to make sure he was dead.

- Samuel Goldwyn

You should always go to other people's funerals; otherwise, they won't come to yours.

- Yogi Berra

Although my funeral is closer today than it was yesterday, personally I’m not looking forward to it, but there’s no reason you can’t have a grand time.