Death comes in many forms.
Describing the hurt I twice experienced this year, I will not presume my sorrow approached that of losing a human being. However, because the things I lost had directly connected me to human beings I love, my sadness was deep.
A connection to Dad
When my father died in 2010, I wanted only one thing from his estate: his cultivator.
Dad used that cultivator for my entire life. Dad instilled in me a love of gardening. Dad taught me everything I needed to know in order to succeed as a gardener.
If I could have Dad’s cultivator, two good things could happen. First, I would have a significant piece of what Dad meant to me. Second, I would own a useful garden tool, one which I didn’t have.
None of my siblings was interested, so I eagerly took possession of the cultivator. It was spring, so I immediately put it to use in my vegetable garden in Port Hope, and then got just as much use from it in Indianapolis.
I wish I knew the age of that cultivator. The wood always was in rough shape; it was a splinter factory. The metal has been rusty since, well, I can’t recall it ever not being rusty.
As I was cultivating late in 2018, the left wooden arm broke. Since it was the end of the growing season, I set it aside to examine in 2019.
When I pulled out the cultivator last spring, I was disappointed to find that no elves had magically repaired it. Seeking Julie’s input, she agreed with my assessment: it was too far gone to fix.
While I had made do without a cultivator before inheriting Dad’s—for thirty years, I labored far harder using only a hoe—I now was spoiled. I got a new cultivator. One that is all metal.
Though I’m no longer using Dad’s cultivator, I’ve still not parted with it. It sits to the side, where I spy it quite often.
I can’t bare to break it down and dispose of it.
When I look at it, I see my father.
A connection to Port Hope
In the spring of 2008, I was in my eighth year as pastor at St. John Lutheran Church. As far as I knew, I would minister there until I retired. While I wound up being correct, in 2008 I never would have guessed my retirement would come as soon as 2014.
In the spring of 2008, I was in need of a new car. I headed to Bad Axe, to Hanson’s, where the year before we had purchased a Chevy Impala for our son.
I loved that Impala. I was envious that Alex got to take it to college.
Arriving at Hanson’s, I explained what I was looking for. “You like your son’s Impala?” “Yeah. I love it. I wish I were driving it.” “Come with me.”
I soon was standing in front of an Impala. Though it was seven years old, it had only 24,444 miles on it. I took it for a test drive.
A mile from Hanson’s, I pulled over and called Julie. Hearing the excitement in my voice, she simply asked, “What are you waiting for?” Returning to Hanson’s, I looked at no other cars, happy to take ownership of this Impala.
That car did me well. It got excellent gas mileage. It was reliable. I fit in it the way I feel in my favorite chair.
Three years ago, our car mechanic was fixing something on the underside of the car. He said, “It’s rusting really badly. It could go at any time.”
It didn’t go at any time. And, because it continued to run well and get great gas mileage, I usually forgot about the rust.
Until this autumn, when it sprang a leak. In the gas line. And the mechanic said, “If I try to fix it, I fear the entire underside of the car will crumble.”
I hate switching cars for the same reason I hate switching my living room chair, for the same reason all of you reading this don’t need me to tell you why—and it has nothing to do with money.
This car, however, was more than a reliable friend. As that old cultivator provided an intimate connection to my father, the Impala was intricately tied to my life in Port Hope.
I bought the Impala while I was in the best of years there—the first few years were a growing-into-the-work period; St. John, with its school, was a way larger challenge than my first call in Iowa—and I had so many more great years after. Julie and I were firmly entrenched in the village. It was home.
I drove that car everywhere. I made hundreds of home visits, and nursing home and hospital calls in it. Around Port Hope and Huron County. To Saginaw, and Port Huron, and Bay City. To minister to people I came to love. To minister to people to whom I wish I were still ministering.
I couldn’t have asked for more from that Impala. I got my money’s worth. I got my heart’s worth.
In September, Julie and I went car shopping. We purchased a 2017 Toyota RAV4. We’ve already taken it on a long trip, to Iowa in October. We are pleased with our new wheels.
The Impala was not trade-in worthy. We sold it for scrap.
Awaiting the guy’s arrival to take it away, I cried.
I was taken aback by how much this hurt.