When my mother said goodbye to our old Volvo sedan in 2003 after 20 years and near 150,000 miles, she stood on the driveway sobbing at the site of the tow truck.  At the time, I remember thinking that it was all a little bit odd.  Had a person died, or even a pet, I would have understood her sadness.  But why would someone shed tears over an inanimate object?

Over a month ago, our seven year old Toyota Yaris with nearly 70,000 miles was in an accident.  After a seemingly endless battle fighting with the insurance company whose driver had hit our car, as well as a futile attempt to repair it, the car was ruled a total loss. But before the wreck was sold, I was told by the collision company that I was welcome to come to the lot and collect our things.

The Yaris was the first major purchase that my wife and I made together, and to date, it is the only thing we’ve ever owned debt free. Flush with student debt at the end of rabbinical school, but with a new suburban rabbinical job, we realized that we needed a car that would get us from “Point A to Point B.”  We bought the car from the Toyota of Manhattan because at the time, it was the closest dealer we could reach by subway.  We used the car to move to New Jersey, and despite its being a subcompact, the car was a lot like Mary Poppins’ handbag.  Dozens of times we shoved the Yaris full of things that should have never fit; but somehow, entire refrigerators and large pieces of furniture always seemed to “just make it.”  The Yaris was there for our family road trips. We drove it across states to weddings. The night my mother died, I picked up my brother at the train station and it carried us in the middle of the night to Philadelphia.

Cleaning out the Yaris felt a little like I was cleaning out the closet of a close family friend who had unexpectedly passed away.  I didn’t feel ready.  Along my trip down memory lane I uncovered old restaurant receipts, my CD collection, change for tolls on the Garden State Parkway, and the hospital ID I had used to visit congregants.

I got in my rental car, drove away, and shed a tear.  Grief is a funny thing.  All of these years later, I now finally understand why my mother cried at the site of the tow truck.