The United States is, without question, the most religious country in the so-called developed world. If the pollsters are to…
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When I looked at the woman directly, she averted her gaze in embarrassment—as if I had caught her in the act of studying me. Granted, the bereaved child at a funeral is always the subject of everybody’s attention. As the person closest to the departed, they want you to set the emotional tone for the occasion. If you’re hysterical, they won’t be frightened of letting rip. If you’re sobbing, they’ll just sob too. If you’re emotionally buttoned up, they’ll also remain controlled, disciplined, correct. I was being very controlled, very correct—and so too were the twenty or so mourners who had accompanied my mother on “her final journey”—to borrow the words of the funeral director who dropped that phrase into the conversation when he was telling me the price of transporting her from his “chapel of rest” on 75th and Amsterdam to this, “her eternal resting place” . . . right under the LaGuardia Airport flight path in Flushing Meadow, Queens.
After the woman turned away, I heard the reverse throttle of jet engines and glanced up into the cold blue winter sky. No doubt several members of the assembled graveside congregation thought that I was contemplating the heavens—and wondering about my mother’s place in its celestial vastness. But actually all I was doing was checking out the name of the descending jet. US Air. One of those old 727s they still use for short hauls. Probably the Boston shuttle. Or maybe the Washington run . . . It is amazing the trivial junk that floats through your head at the most momentous moments of your life.