For several years after my mother’s death her Cadillac sat on the carport at the funeral home, occupying space and not doing much of anyone any good. But it was her car, silvery beige—I think the official name was “Light Cashmere”. It was the kind of color that was so neutral you forgot what it looked like once you walked away. She seemed to enjoy that color palette; their apartment was decorated in beiges, peach, and soft green, so silvery beige was right up her alley.
For those last few years, a Cadillac had been her preferred vehicle, but during those years she reached a point where she couldn’t open the doors (they were too heavy) and she could barely see over the steering wheel. Those inabilities kept us from having to take away her driving privileges . . . Mother Nature kinda took care of that for us . . . but it did mean a chauffeur was required for any excursions.
It took a while before we were ready to part with it, but it was dying a slow and painful death in its coveted parking space and the day came when someone who would appreciate it and care for it as she had drove it off the carport and away from the building, never to return.
Fast forward to this weekend. I’m driving back to work after supper with the kids and, as I pass the parking lot of a local clothing store, my eyes catch sight of a Cadillac. A silvery beige Cadillac with a FOR SALE sign in the window. I didn’t have to know the model year (not that it would have helped), I didn’t have to know who placed it there. I KNEW that was the prized possession I had walked passed for years as I entered the building each day . . . the car I had driven more than once taking my mother to church or a doctor’s appointment. I knew it was her car. The last car she had ever owned.
Except it wasn’t her car. Not anymore. It belonged to another nice person who legally purchased it from us but who no longer needed it and had chosen to place it there in hopes of finding a buyer. And for some reason that bothered me.
Now, I’m normally a rational, somewhat logical human being. I understand there is absolutely no justifiable reason for me to think anything about this. But you will notice I ended the first sentence of this paragraph with the words “human being”. As such we tend to form attachments to material things that remind us of the people we’ve lost to Death. Those things begin to serve a dual purpose. That car is a means of transportation . . . and something that meant a great deal to my mother. A house is a shelter from the elements . . . and a place where memories are gathered. The china that was a wedding present decades before, the recliner that became the favorite chair for watching the favorite show, a million other material possessions that now serve as a reminder of someone we love—these things are harder to part with because of the memories they hold. But we can’t keep everything forever. Generations of stuff will eventually have no meaning for those who never knew their connections to the past. Isn’t it better to allow those things to be used by others who will appreciate them and who will use them to create their own memories? That’s a lesson I’m gonna have to teach myself since our home became the repository for any leftovers from my grandfather’s house . . . and my husband’s grandmother’s house . . . and if I’m not careful, from the apartment that belonged to my parents. Meaning when I die my children are going to hate me. That doesn’t mean you don’t keep anything, just that keeping everything isn’t possible.
So, I’ll probably still watch as I drive by the Cadillac with the FOR SALE signs on the dashboard and in the windows. I’ll probably wonder who bought it when it eventually disappears. But I do hope it finds a good home with someone who needs a reliable car that was well cared for and probably still has a lot of miles left in it. When we choose to let go of the material possessions that belonged to our loved ones, we have to remember that we did just that. We let go, and we don’t get to be upset or offended, much less expect a say in what happens after that. And for our own sake, and the sake of the generations to come, we need to learn to let go of more.