We sold Cindy’s car the other day, a smart little 2004 Chevy Monte Carlo, and as we watched the new owner drive it out of sight, we realized that a part of us had gone with it.
Cindy was our daughter who died of cancer a year ago. It has taken that long to distribute her belongings to relatives, friends and charity organizations. Her car was the last major item to go.
It moved slowly down the street where we live, turned right toward the main boulevard, appeared once more through a stand of oak trees and then was gone. I felt like crying.
My wife and I each have a car, and all of our family members old enough to drive also have their own cars, so there was no logic in keeping it other than the deep emotional attachment to our daughter.
“We will always have her,” Cinelli said, when we made the final decision to sell Cindy’s gleaming white Monte Carlo. “A car is just a car.”
“She loved it so,” I said. “I’ve never seen a cleaner, well-kept car.”
“Yes,” Cinelli said softly. “I’ll miss it. It was all Cindy.”
Grief is often manifested in symbols. The car was one. As long as it was parked in our driveway there remained a link to our witty, super-smart girl who owned it. Now the attachment is in the costume jewelry she left behind, a scramble of rings,earrings, bracelets and broaches.
Cindy was 59 when she died—all the more reason to grieve. We had known her both as a child and as an adult, time deepening the relationship between us. She’d never married and valued us more than any casual boyfriend she might have had. We were her best friends as well as her parents.
How do we grieve? We’ve been asked that by others who, tragically, found themselves in the same dark circumstance. We grieve by never confining Cindy to silence. We grieve by talking about her, laughing about her and sometimes crying about her.
She remains more than ashes in our lives. We have grown a special garden for her because she loved flowers. Roses and daffodils and gladiolas grow in her name, greeted by the staunch oaks that surround them and marked by a wooden sign carved by a friend that says simply, “Cindy’s Garden.”
We will keep her memory bright not by possessions alone, but by clear images of the girl, the woman, who will remain with us for the length of our own lives and the lives of her siblings.
What she drove, I guess, is not that important. A car, after all, is just a car. But still…