My Sacred Car


They came this morning for my 2002 Toyota Avalon. Ran it up on a flat bed and took it to an auction yard. Some children’s charity will receive, I don’t know, three hundred dollars.

I loved that car. It had a six-cylinder engine that jumped like a rocket. It had 237,851 miles: I knew this day would come. But I was hoping to get to a quarter million. I could have done it, easy. But cars reach that final parking lot before they’re really ready, much like humans. The old Avalon had new tires, for heaven’s sake. It would have ground up the road for another odometer century. But I got an offer to buy a new car that I couldn’t pass up, one with only a few miles, and I had to face that the time was now.

As I filled out the paper work, I felt like I was at some hospital, and she was the patient. I was sad. She still looked so good, only one ding on the bumper. I sent pictures to my kids. Say Good-bye, I wrote.

They were kind in my moment of loss, but while I had her they wouldn’t be caught dead in the Avalon. After about 150,000 miles it was a byword in the family. Which car are you taking?, they would ask. I would say, The good one. They rolled their eyes. I knew it wasn’t the hottest thing on the road, but that was ok. I had a maintenance file three inches thick. I had invested a lot. Always told myself it was less than a car payment. Part of the fun was babying this thing, wiring up a broken piece of plastic cowling rather than getting new, coaxing another mile out of her.

The truth is, I had a relationship with my car. I took care of her and she took care of me. I suppose I spent 5,000 hours in that seat. So it was not easy the morning I got a box and began emptying the glove box and every little compartment, including the one where I kept a toothpick, a nail file and Carmex, road trip essentials. It felt like the end of something important, like there should be a liturgy or a prayer for this moment.

Every relationship—and not just the interpersonal ones—has the power to deepen and humanize our lives. Everybody knows that dogs and cats have souls. Most of us know that our homes can be sacred spaces. I guess I’d add automobiles to that list. The goal of the spiritual life is finally to see everything as sacred, as God-saturated, to be in relationship to everything as holy, ensouled.

So I am not crazy to swipe a tear from my cheek when the men came for her. Be crazy not to cry.

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