Grieving and Receiving at the Dealership: A Guest Post by Mary Vanderplas

Grieving and Receiving at the Dealership: A Guest Post by Mary Vanderplas

Grieving and Receiving at the Dealership: A Guest Post by Mary Vanderplas

We all have emotional attachments to people, but have you ever felt emotionally attached to a thing? Guest blogger, Mary Vanderplas, explains…

Until just recently, I had driven the same vehicle for 20 years. I don’t doubt that I would be driving that vehicle still, were it not for the fact that when I brought it in to be checked because it was having some problems, the mechanic, George, solemnly pronounced that the transmission was going.

Being the car person that I am (NOT), I called for advice two people I know who I was fairly certain know a lot more about cars and the market for them than I do. Both my brother and my best’s brother-in-law instructed me to check online before venturing out into the wide world of car sales. I followed their advice and managed to come up with a couple of cars for sale in the immediate area of my home that met the criteria I had.

When I called the dealership about one of them, I spoke with a friendly salesman who answered my questions and invited me to come down and take a look. When we arrived, we were met by the salesman I had spoken with – a pleasant man with a soft voice and gentle manner. He led us to the car I had asked about. It looked sleek and attractive on the outside. Getting in, however, I was immediately overcome by a sense that it wasn’t the car for me. There were just too many unfamiliar features, things I couldn’t identify, let alone imagine myself learning how to use. The salesman calmly pointed us in the direction of another car of a similar make – telling us that it was a 2016, two years newer than the one we had just seen. We commented to one another about the color – black – noting that neither of us particularly cared for the color.

After being shown a couple of other cars that didn’t meet the criteria, we decided to take a closer look at the black 2016. The salesman suggested that we take it for a test drive and that we drive it to our house. We had wondered out loud whether it would clear the driveway, thinking that the bottom might scrape on the cement because the car is low and the driveway pretty steep. We were pleasantly surprised to discover that there was no problem getting into and out of the driveway without scraping the bottom, as long as the wheels were turned soon enough allowing the car to go in or out at an angle.

By the time we got back to the dealership, we were sold. The salesman produced the reports I asked for, confirming that the car didn’t have a history of any issues. Evidently, the previous owner, who had owned the car for only seven months, just decided he or she wanted something else. Even though the price of this car was a little higher than I had expected to pay, we felt it was an offer that I couldn’t refuse – a good deal considering that the car was for all practical purposes new.

A couple of things about this experience make it interesting and memorable for me. One is that I was surprised by how hard it was for me to take the plunge and get rid of my old Jeep Cherokee for another car, even though I knew it was what I needed to do and I had already been thinking for some time about the inevitability of having to get rid of it one of these days. But even after George gave me the bad news, I resisted the thought of giving it up. My first thought was that I would drive it until it died entirely – which would have been pretty stupid, considering that I was able to get at least a little for it by trading it in while it was still running. But cling to my old Jeep I did – like someone not wanting to say goodbye and let a dying loved one go.

Upon reflection, I came to the conclusion that my attachment to this car had a spiritual dimension. The car represented more than just a means of transportation. Indeed, it was like a trusted friend, something that had taken me on the highways and byways of life for 20 long years, through all of the ups and downs that those years brought. It had listened to me laugh and sing and express joyful emotions; it had listened to me curse and rail and cry in frustration and anger and sorrow. It had been there with me and had faithfully carried me along no matter where I was or where I was going. So I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised that, when it came time to leave the dealership that day with my new wheels, I had a lump in my throat and I wanted to be alone with my Jeep one last time before we left.

A second thing that made the experience significant for me was that I sensed that God’s hand was in it. I don’t say this lightly. To speak of divine providence in the context of sharing an experience of buying a car isn’t something that I would necessarily expect myself to do. When it comes to the doctrine of providence, I have always been inclined to think more in terms of being sustained in a general way by the hidden hand of God and not in terms of receiving specific things as a result of God’s intervening in our daily lives to bless us. But I felt clearly that day that God was present and that the car I drove home was a gift from God’s hand in a very personal and particular way.

If you ask me to explain why I felt that way, I can’t. I just did. And the result was that I was filled with gratitude and joy. I still get goose bumps when I think about it. Maybe it’s because I know that I don’t deserve it. I know it wasn’t a reward for my being a good person – which I’m mostly not – or for my having driven the same car for 20 years, as though there is virtue in austerity and excessively curbing consumption. My not buying a car sooner than I did had less to do with any virtuous proclivities toward responsible spending than it did with a borderline neurotic aversion to change. At any rate, when I drove away with this beautiful new car, I felt that I had received a gift, an undeserved blessing, and I rejoiced and gave thanks to God for giving me this particular car.

So now I am driving in style – in a 2016 Toyota Camry that shines like a new penny and purrs like a kitten. But as for me, I am the same person, and I am headed in the same direction: toward the reign of God, where new cars pale in comparison to the glories we shall behold and become.

  • Alice Spicer October 29, 2016 at 10:30 am

    I’ve shared that same type of experience with my childhood home. It’s the strangest thing, because it’s not as if the your car or my old house share in our sentiment. It reminds me of Native American animism.

    • Mary Vanderplas November 1, 2016 at 6:18 am

      As it turns out, my grief was short-lived – suggesting that my reaction had less to do with my being deeply connected to the old car than it did with my just being resistant to change. Truth be told, it’s always been hard for me to part with the old and embrace newness. Fortunately, I also have a pretty high need for order, so my living space doesn’t exactly resemble a junk yard.

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