12 At the Graveside After a Service

A graveside service after a funeral is brief. We are tempted to make it long, because we spent so much time getting to the cemetery. But what everyone wants at this moment is for the talking to stop. They–we–don’t necessarily want the burial to happen, don’t want to face what is next, but more talking won’t make those moments of pain and transition better. So be at peace. Simple is fine.

Logistics

Stand at the back of the hearse. When the pallbearers pick up the casket, lead the way to the graveside. When you get there, stand at the foot of the casket. Wait for the family to be seated and for everyone to gather. Take your cue from the funeral director.

Order of Service

Scripture

Offer a brief, relevant passage of Scripture. Psalm 23 is appropriate. Part of 1 Corinthians 13 is as well.

Committal

“In sure and certain hope of the resurrection to eternal life through our Lord Jesus Christ, we commit to Almighty God our sister/brother [__], and we commit her body to the ground; earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust.

The Lord bless her and keep her, the Lord make his face to shine upon her and be gracious to her, the Lord lift up his face upon her and give her peace. Amen.”

Prayer 

I decided that this can be praying Scripture, so I use an adaptation of Psalm 130.

“Out of the depths we cry out to you, O Lord
let your ears be attentive to our cry for mercy.
If you, O lord, kept a record of sins,
O Lord, who could stand?
But with you there is forgiveness;
therefore you are worshiped.
Our souls wait for you,
more than night watchmen wait for morning.
We put our hope in you, Lord
because you have unfailing love
and full redemption,
and we need to trust in that now.
Amen”

And then I repeat the blessing for all of us.

“The Lord bless you and keep you, the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you, the Lord lift up his face upon you and give you peace. Amen.”

Conclusion

And then I let the funeral director say “This concludes the service.”

Military honors (if appropriate)

According to the Department of Defense, military honors means that an honor guard “performs at the funeral a ceremony that includes the folding of a U.S. flag, presentation of the flag to the designated flag recipient, and the playing of Taps.”[1] It can include a rifle salute (three volleys, not twenty-one). This part of the graveside service most often happens at the end of the service, after all of the non-military portions, including the benediction.

The reason is simple. No one is able to speak after “Taps”.

After the service

Talk to the family who are seated. A simple handshake and “I’m sorry” or “God bless you” is enough. If they want to hug or to talk briefly, that’s appropriate.

If you rode to the cemetery with the director, don’t feel the need to stay. This is a time for people to start shifting from the seriousness and solemnity of the services into other kinds of conversation. They will need to take these steps without you present. If you aren’t staying because of being family or friend, you can leave when the director leaves.


  1. See DOD INSTRUCTION 1300.15 MILITARY FUNERAL SUPPORT, https://www.esd.whs.mil/Portals/54/Documents/DD/issuances/dodi/130015p.pdf Accessed 10/24/2019.

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