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.

9 Responses to My Sacred Car
  1. art brown
    August 2, 2018 | 1:42 pm

    but you have baby wah.

  2. Donna Harrison
    August 2, 2018 | 6:12 pm

    I had a car I felt that way about…
    But not here to talk mechanical sentimentality. Here to say how thankful I am to have your presence in my spiritual journey. Thank you for your insights, your strength, your grasp of what is God-in-us-all. I am wanting more of this healing. I need to close the Good-Bye Gate, to learn to Stand Apart. Your written words have strengthened my resolve and deepened my ability to forgive and love. Thank you.
    Donna H.

  3. Michael Moore
    August 2, 2018 | 8:45 pm

    I feel for you, David. In my view, we have cars because horses aren’t a viable option for getting around anymore. For centuries, the love of a human for her or his horse was a deep true thing, in part because they needed each other for survival. Horses have personalities, which machines arguably don’t — although it’s pretty durn easy to project a personality on some vehicles (as I’m writing, I’m looking at my grandfather’s 1964 Ford pickup in my driveway). I don’t know what a soul is, but I’ve met some soulful horses. While it’s hard for me to imagine any soul in the machine, perhaps we are approaching The Singularity after all. Skeptical as I am about that, I must admit that my favorite love song is about a man, a woman and a vintage motorcycle: “Harleys and Indians and Greeves’s won’t do/They don’t have a soul like a Vincent ’52.” God chose not to give us angel’s wings, but gave us many other ways to fly. May your next car be as soulful as the last.

  4. clark s johnson
    August 3, 2018 | 12:12 pm

    David, Sally and I have a 2002 Acura, one engine change, and close to her demise. It is like loosing a dear friend. How we get so attached to a machine is odd but because of many memories I guess!

  5. Lois Berry
    August 5, 2018 | 3:34 pm

    Dick would agree with you. He had a old “woody” for years and years and never wanted to part with it. Even now We consider a 10 year old car pretty new. When one saw the pavement and the engine rattled it was time to say goodbye.!!!!!!!!!Have a great time on vacation!

  6. Michael
    August 6, 2018 | 9:47 pm

    David, two thoughts:
    1) did you name the car?
    2) your mother would be so, so pleased

  7. Cristina Orsi-Lirot
    August 7, 2018 | 8:23 am

    Had a 2002 Tahoe like that. Made the 250000 mark! Drove nicely. A great people mover in its day. Named the Beast! Donated it to the Boy scouts- when they took it we were sad and relieved. We felt the same way about our 88 Volvo wagon which we sold to a friend of our sons in 2015. Ran like a top.

  8. Johnna Fredrickson
    August 8, 2018 | 4:41 pm

    In 1993, my VW Golf GT moved from my driveway to my sister’s – she had hit a deer with her car and needed another, and I knew she would give it a good home. When the time came to shuffle off the mortal coil, it was my sister who stayed at the driveway side until the VW was called back home…

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