Family for a day: students serve as pallbearers for a man who died alone

Six students from the Roxbury Latin boys high school in Boston learned some important life lessons on a field trip. The typical field trip is mildly educational but mostly a fun day off from school routine. In this case, it wasn’t fun at all but gave them a whole new perspective on life… and death.

On this field trip, the students were serving as pallbearers for a complete stranger, a man who died alone with no next of kin. He was being buried in an unmarked pauper’s grave at a city cemetery. The educator behind this field trip is Mike Pojman, the school’s assistant principal. He was inspired by a similar program at his own high school in Cleveland. Pojman knew that it would not only teach valuable lessons, but also be a way to give something back to society. “To reflect on the fact that there are people, like this gentleman, who probably knew hundreds or thousands of people through his life, and at the end of it there’s nobody there — I think that gets to all of them. Some have said, ‘I just gotta make sure that never happens to me.'”

The students were also helping a local funeral director, Robert Lawler, one of only a few who handle burials like this. Without these students, he would have been the only one there to say a graveside prayer. After carrying the coffin — little more than a wooden box — one student offered some kind words: “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. Today we are his family.”

Far from seeing this as an unpleasant chore, the students greatly appreciated the new perspective on life that they got from it. We’ve posted a video about their experience below.

What did you think about this lesson in life and death? Let us know in the comments at Facebook and be sure to like and share!