Boys Volunteer Their Time to Be Pallbearers for Deceased Who Have No Friends or Family

pallbearersSix high school seniors are doing something that can teach all of us about life, about death, and about selflessness. These seniors from boys' school Roxbury Latin in Boston have volunteered their time to be pallbearers for people who have died alone, without any family to attend services.


Roxbury Latin seniors Chris Rota, Liam McDonough, Emmett Dalton, Esteban Enrique, Brendan McInerney, and Noah Piou, along with their school's assistant headmaster Mike Pojman, dress in jackets and ties for the services. They recite prayers. And for the deceased who have no family, they are there for them, as their sons.

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This goes beyond an incredible gesture of kindness. These teens have made a commitment to be there for those who have no one -- without that person ever being there, without expecting anything tangible in return. It's an act of selflessness and it has taught them a lot, things that we could all learn as well.

We could surmise that Rota, McDonough, Dalton, Enrique, McInerney, and Piou have a good feeling in their souls for doing something so incredible for someone else, for a stranger. But we also have to remember that this isn't an easy thing to do -- to be there for someone in death, to feel that connection, and to essentially choose to mourn someone they don't know. It affects them deeply.

Assistant headmaster Pojman told NPR that the boys have said they want to make sure that something like this doesn't happen to them -- they don't want to die alone despite having known hundreds of people throughout their lives. The volunteers read this prayer for a man named Nicholas Miller who died without anyone to attend his funeral:

Dear Lord, thank you for opening our hearts and minds to this corporal work of mercy. We are here to bear witness to the life and passing of Nicholas Miller. He died alone with no family to comfort him. But today we are his family, we are here as his sons. We are honored to stand together before him now, to commemorate his life, and to remember him in death, as we commend his soul to his eternal rest.

The students are excused from part of their day at school to attend the graveside services. Then they return to school. Eighteen-year-old McInerney told NPR of his volunteer experience, "You get perspective on what's really important in life." Seventeen-year-old Piou said of Mr. Miller's service, "I've never met Mr. Miller before, but even within that I kind of had a connection with him, and I could feel that." 

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I am caught up in the beauty that these are teenagers taking on a huge responsibility in honoring people who have passed on -- regular people who simply died alone without any loved ones. The thought of that loneliness is hard to even think about, but there is comfort in the beautiful light these teens have brought to the end of people's lives. They are helping to honor their existence and in doing so realize the importance of their own. We all can learn from this -- the value of life and the weight of death, the investment we make when we love others and let them into our world, and the power and impact of volunteering. As parents, we can share this with our own teens and note the importance of volunteering. We can do so by example, by showing compassion and being there for people, even those we do not know.

To Rota, McDonough, Dalton, Enrique, McInerney, and Piou: Thank you. You set an incredible example for us all.


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