The Funeral Committal Service

The Final Segment of a Funeral

An example of a graveside committal service.
An example of a graveside committal service.

In a burial or cremation ceremony, the final segment of the funeral service is typically the committal service which is conducted at the graveside or the crematorium. It may be a public service or one in which only immediate family is present.

In the case of a traditional earth burial funeral service, the committal service usually takes place directly following the service at the church or chapel. The easiest most orderly and efficient way to get from the site of the ceremony to the cemetery is by a procession. Because of this, the procession is an integral part of the funeral.

A procession is a motorcade in which a procession of cars will follow each other to the cemetery or final resting place of the deceased. The immediate family members ride in a limousine or car driven by funeral staff. They can also drive themselves in their own automobiles but generally they are taken there by a staff driver or other close friend.

Immediate family, relatives, close friends, and representatives from any other organization affiliated with the deceased proceed to the final resting place or cemetery led by the funeral director and officiant. The route getting to the cemetery is carefully planned by the funeral director. At times, this route may include driving past the deceased residence, place of business, or other special place in the life of the deceased.

The gravesite will have been prepared earlier in the day prior to the committal service ceremony. Such preparation items may include a graveliner or burial vault, grass matting, chairs and canopy. When attendees arrive, they will gather around the final resting place. The officiant will say a short prayer or departing words and sometimes, a flower is distributed to all. Prior to lowering the casket, the immediate family will gather around and say their final goodbye. The casket is then lowered into the ground and attendees will toss their flower on top of the casket in the ground.

This ritual was done at my own grandmother's earth burial service. I must say, it was the most emotional part of the entire service. When you see the casket lowered into the ground, reality takes hold and you know that it is the end. The lowering of the casket farewell may vary from depending on religion and family wishes but most follow similar practices.

I have also attended a cremation committal service in which the cremains were placed inside a wall crematorium. In my experience, the earth burials are always the hardest to endure. I imagine it is because the body is in tact within the casket as opposed to the cremation. In a cremation ceremony, the family will say their goodbye to the body of the deceased prior to cremation. So by the time the committal service happens, they have already said their final farewell.

Of course, not all cremations or burials have a committal service. It is not mandatory but is typically done and is performed with dignity and out of respect for the deceased. It can also provide a means of closure for the immediate family members.

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