Only when his son Bashir Gemayel, the assassinated president-elect of Lebanon, was laid to rest today in the family crypt in this mountain village high over the Mediterranean did his father finally cry.

It was just before 6 p.m. Night was falling fast. And no one except a handful of villagers saw Sheik Pierre, as the family patriarch is known throughout Lebanon, pull out a white handkerchief and dab at tears streaming down his craggy face as the flag-covered coffin was taken into the stone mausoleum.

The Gemayels are a tough clan, not given to tears or any other public show of emotion.

They have clawed their way to the top, starting when Pierre founded the Phalange party based on German and Spanish Fascist models in 1936 to further Christian -- and especially Maronite Catholic -- hegemony in this country, which is made up of a mosaic of religious minorities. Sheik Pierre, who ran unsuccessfully for the presidency in 1964 and 1970, fulfilled his dream with the Aug. 23 election of Bashir, the undisputed warlord of what until the Israeli invasion was a tiny Christian ghetto north and east of Beirut.

Then yesterday, Bashir, at 34, nine days away from assuming power as Lebanon's youngest president, was crushed to death when a bomb went off as he addressed his followers in East Beirut.

Yet throughout the day as Sheik Pierre rose to receive visitors in the carpeted room on the second story of his 18th-century stone house, the 77-year-old politician showed no emotion.

Ministers and former prime ministers, former presidents, members of parliament, Christians and Moslems, those who voted for Bashir and those who opposed, they came from all parts of the country to pay their last respects.

Such is the way in this country, which after more than seven years of violence seems condemned to find unity only at funerals.

Downstairs in the flagstone garden shaded by four cedar trees, Bashir's older brother, Amin, received hundreds of lesser personalities, hiding his sorrow behind dark glasses.

Only 24 days earlier, the two brothers and Sheik Pierre had begun a week-long ritual, receiving thousands of joyous well-wishers convinced that Lebanon's long travail was nearing an end thanks to the Israeli invasion and that major American efforts were underway to restore state authority and remove all foreign troops from Lebanese soil.

The Palestinian guerrillas, Gemayel's foremost enemies, had already begun leaving Beirut, a miracle no less important than that of Bashir's election in many eyes.

Then, as they did today, loyal retainers politely but firmly insisted that visitors hand over their firearms for safekeeping as long as they were inside Sheik Pierre's house.

Aside from the 21-gun salute delivered with blanks by a World War II-era British 25-pounder artillery piece, not a shot was fired.

As the bell pealed in the ancient stone St. Abda's Church, distraught young militiamen pounded on the oak coffin and tried to hoist Amin aloft until he demanded they stop.

Yet the young men's gesture caught for the moment the traditional way power is passed on here. If the chemistry is right, power is handed down through the clan.

To some politicians present, it seemed as if Amin was tossing his hat in the ring as the successor to his dead brother.

The politicians all agreed that a new election must take place before outgoing President Elias Sarkis' six-year term expires Sept. 23 -- or as soon thereafter as possible, so there will be no vacuum of power. Their assumption is that Bashir's Lebanese Forces and his father's Phalange would agree.

Later in the afternoon, as Israeli jets repeatedly flew overhead, all but drowning out the funeral service in a reminder of their dominant role in Lebanese affairs, Amin told thousands of villagers, diplomats, churchmen and politicians that Bashir's "blood was not spilled in vain" because Lebanese of all religious communities and regions had dared gather today in Bikfaya.

"We pledge Bashir's followers that his march will go on for a better Lebanon," Amin said, "They did away with his body, but not his spirit or his desire for liberation."

Sarkis, in tremulous voice, decorated his slain successor posthumously with the country's highest decoration, the Order of the Cedar, and said, "Despite your age, you have done more than others to try to free Lebanon with pride."

Former prime minister Saeb Salam and other Sunni Moslem politicians sat impassively on a podium during the services. Only recently the Sunnis had been expressing anger at the tactics that had persuaded a barely legal quorum of National Assembly deputies to elect Bashir president over their outraged resistance.

Down in the cemetery at the bottom of the village's steep hill, Elie Mahlouf, a militia veteran, recalled the funeral of Bashir's 18-month old daughter, Maya, in April 1979. A car bomb meant for Bashir exploded and killed the little girl and three bodyguards.

"In Lebanon, it is our life to die," he said, perhaps more accurately reflecting the country's -- and Bashir's -- destiny than all the official rhetoric.