2012-05-23

How to - Carrying & moving the coffin

    After seing my previous post about how to attend a funeral someone recently asked me about how to move a move a coffin.  So here is a little guide on how to move and handel the coffin.

    Foot first.  This is something which a lot of people do not notice and do not do.  But it is a key thing which should always be done.  When moving the coffin take the foot end first.  In a car the coffin should have the foot end towards the driver so again, it travels foot first even when being driven.  This has a symbolic meaning in that it represents the person walking.  As though they are still moving of their own to the next place.  However it also has a practical reason in that it prevents the body from 'purging'.  Purging is where the body basically throws up fluids.  So keep the head raised will keep the fluids down.

    Turn clockwise.  This is symbolic of the moving of life.  It directly represents the turning of the clock and the passage of time.  However always turning clockwise also means you will know what everyone is doing.  There will be no surprises if you follow a pattern.

    Wheel by the thumbscrews.  When wheeling the coffin always hold the thumbscrews and not the handels.  Holding the thumbscrews will be daunting to the inexperienced yet it gives much better grip and control.  The handels are too low for most people so it will mean bending awkwardly and possibly bad for people.  This also does not look good.  To see the paul bearers bending awkwardly as they wheel the coffin.  More importantly holding the handels give little grip which could lift the coffin off the trolley.  For better control and comfort hold the thumbscrews.  It does not just look better but is better.

    Keep in step.  Many people struggle with this, and while not essential it does help.  Keeping in step prevents treating on anyones toes and looks nice.  To keep in step just copy the person in front of you.  Move as and when they move and everything will be fine.  If you are at the front of the coffin (the foot end) copy the person leading the coffin, be they the conductor, a priest or whoever else might be in front.  If nobody is leading the coffin just walk evenly and do not worry too much.

    Keep it level.  When going up or down stairs keep the coffin level as much as possible.  By keeping the coffin level it makes sure nothing on top (such as flowers) will fall off.  It also makes it much easier and safer for everyone involved.  To keep the coffin level those at the low end will have to lift it up as much as practical. 

    Carry by one handel.  Unless you are picking up, raising, or placing down the coffin only use one handel.  Sometimes people try to use both hands to carry the coffin, but this never works and just makes it awkward.  You should only ever need to use one hand on one handel to carry a coffin safely.  Simply use your hand that is closest to the coffin.  If carrying coffins regularly swap sides to prevent strains or developing a 'preferred side'.

    Face the foot end.  The coffin should always travel foot first.  I cannot stress this enough.  Thus you should always face the foot end when carrying the coffin.  So if you are getting the coffin out of a hearse or off something face the foot end.  It is amusing to see people getting a coffin out of a hearse and they instinctively face away from the hearse.  Away from the foot end.  Instead they should face towards the hearse when pulling the coffin out.  As shown in the picture above.

    Do not stress or worry.  Carrying the coffin can be a worrying thing for a lot of people.  Yet it is not that difficult.  Nobody has dropped a coffin as far as I know.  There are stories of close calls, where a handel came off as they were carrying, yet in every case the coffin was caught.  So the chances of you dropping a coffin, or tripping, while carrying it is very, very, low.

    Keep out of the way.  Do as the funeral conductor instructs when they instruct.  It is better to do nothing than to do something wrong.  So sit tight and wait for a signal, either from the conductor or a pre-determined point in the service.  I have seen families jump up too early to carry a coffin.  They're too eager and nervous.  Then they got in the way when the funeral staff moved up to turn the coffin, which made the family feel bad.  So sit tight, stay still and be where you are suppose to be.  That way everything will be fine.

    Following this stay out of the way and move away when you are done.  Especially at the graveside when the funeral staff tell you to move away then move away.  Often the conductor will be holding the coffin, on his own, so it is heavy and awkward.  The last thing he needs is someone standing in the way asking if he has the coffin.

    This of course is not everything to do with moving a coffin.  But it is a start and should help the nervous or inexperienced.  Look to the conductor, or the hearse driver, if you are unsure about what to do.  In he end it is an easier and less stressful task than one would think.

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