DEAR ABBY: Although I read your column daily, I have never had a reason to write until now. I read the obituaries and have noticed that lately there are female pallbearers listed. Is this proper, or should it be a man's role? I always thought that men were supposed to do it. I'm sure other people wonder about this, too. -- VICKI IN JOPLIN, MO.
DEAR VICKI: In the days when coffins were actually carried, it required strong men to lift them. However, today the coffin is placed on a church "truck," and it's perfectly acceptable for women to be pallbearers.
In early America, it was the women who cared for the dead. It was they who bathed and shrouded the body for burial. In a sense, women are now taking their rightful place again by acting as pallbearers. It is much better when family members of both sexes physically participate in funerals. Doing so can be therapeutic. Twenty years ago morticians were mostly men. Today, 40 percent of graduating morticians are women, according to the Funeral Consumers Alliance. Instead of being ghoulish, the business is becoming "girlish."