Saved- sinner- backslider, it didn't matter, when death came, you turned to the church for support (comfort, preacher, facility, grave, singers, food, flowers). If a person wasn't very well-known, church members would show up to prevent the family of embarrassment of a small turnout. The coffin was open for viewing. The corpse would be dressed in his/her Sunday best. Photos were taken for a remembrance. Of course, everyone would wear black attire as a sign of mourning the loss. They hymn Amazing Grace was usually sung.
Often, the church had a cemetery next to the building reserved for loyal members. For the trip to the family or city cemetery, a funeral procession was formed. At the front was the hearse, cars would drive slow behind. All cars would turn their headlights on, oncoming traffic would pull over to the side of the road in reverence and respect to the deceased. At the graveside service, the minister would repeat "ashes to ashes, dust to dust" while throwing a fistful of dirt onto the lowered casket. Family members would drop a flower on top of the dirt as they filed out. All the graves are dug in such a manner that the dead always point eastward for the Lord's return on resurrection day. Church members would all bring dishes of food to help feed the incoming funeral guests. This gave visitors a time to mingle with relatives and friends and reminisce about the dead.
Having recently lost my father, I thought I'd share what I've learned. While you may feel hesitant about intruding on the family during their grief, but it's important to visit, call, write, email, send flowers, or prepare food to offer your condolences and provide emotional support. It lets the family know that while their loved one is gone, they are not alone, that while suffering a great loss, they are still connected to the living and life will go on. Expressing sympathy by a warm embrace and saying kind words about the person who died is always appreciated. Most of all, be a good listener.