New Cars Symbolizing Death

We bought a car yesterday. A nice car. A car that I’d never buy. It’s a 2012 Jetta Sportwagen diesel. Jess and I would never buy this car. But we just did.

We buy junkers. We buy used Hyundai Accents, we buy old Chevy minivans with 100,000 miles on them, we buy cheap older cars. That’s just what we do.

But things have changed. Our old minivan is done. At 200,000+ miles the AC doesn’t work, the windows don’t roll down, one sliding door is permanently shut (because it’ll randomly open on its own while driving on the freeway!), the gas gauge doesn’t work, the brake lights do not work, the cruise control does not work, it needs new brakes and tires, and-oh did I mention-it’s got some engine and transmission work that needs to be done. So we knew we needed something soon. We also knew that when/if I die Jess would cash purchase a new car with her life insurance money. But I’m not dead yet…

So to make a short story shorter, in the end we realized that now was the time for me to be able to care for my wife by purchasing a car together that she was going to have to purchase on her own–to buy her “my husband is gone, I don’t want to worry about cars right now or for the immediate future, I just want to care for my children and recover” car. That “car” has good gas mileage (we hope to keep her monthly overhead costs low if/when I pass), it’s got to have space for children and their bikes/toys/camping trips/etc., it’s got to be a good quality car that’ll last her ’till our kids are in high school, and it’s got to be a newer car that won’t be breaking down often and thus demanding more of her time. She doesn’t care about bells, whistles, shiny things–just those practical things. That’s the car that we realized we must buy now. This week. Today. Ok, as it turns out, yesterday.

There’s just one problem…

I’m not dead!

That life insurance money is not there to fork over in cash for her ‘ideal’ car! How do you buy a car that you can only afford if you die? To be honest we don’t quite have the answer to that question. I won’t go into details regarding the deal we got on the car (though we got a good one thanks to an important connection) and I’ll honestly say that we’re still figuring out what it looks like to be able to afford it–but what I will say is that buying this car is messing me up. It’s messing Jess up. (and this is where I really want this blog to land)

Purchasing this car feels symbolic. It’s the beginning of a new life: a new life for a single mother who has lost her husband and has a new set of needs that demands a new type of car. It’s symbolic of me being gone and of her being alone. I almost feel like by purchasing this car I have given up on living! ‘Cause lets be honest, I’m not sure we can afford this car unless I die! I had better fork over that cash at some point during the life of this loan. Ha. When all was said and done at the dealership and we both had a moment to reflect we found ourselves honestly sad. What had we done? It wasn’t buyers remorse. No, it was the symbolism. We had just taken our first giant and tangible step forward into a post-Ryan world…and…well…it’s weird. I should probably have a better word than “weird” as a descriptor here. I’m sure real writers would use better words but at this moment it feels right. It just feels weird. It doesn’t feel bad because I know that at its core this is a moment where I was able to care for my wife in a very real way: I just freed her of having to do this whole experience on her own (and oh what an experience it was at the dealership!!). No, there was something beautiful about this stepping out together–but it was is very hard and very…weird. It feels weird to drive such a nice car–we don’t drive cars like this. It feels weird not drive a minivan anymore–we love minivans. It feels weird to call it my wife’s car–it’s always been “us”. It feels weird.

It is weird to continually try to figure out what it looks like to live in the tension of reality as it is and reality as we hope it to be. I hope that we end up having to restructure our loan because I miraculously don’t die. I hope that reality as it appears is not reality as it turns out. I hope to live and I know that God can bring this about. but. But. BUT I feel invited to step out in faith, to let go of any semblance of control by being ok with death. By being ok with preparing my wife for my death. By being ok with purchasing a car in preparation of my death. I don’t like it. It’s weird. It makes me sad. It worries me. I hate death. Death sucks. Death is the ultimate enemy. Buying new cars sucks. Car dealerships are enemies sidekicks. But (and there have been a lot of “buts” in this post haven’t there?!) my faith is in Jesus–not in healing, not in an easy life, not in a life that I expect but instead in the story he chooses to tell in and through me. If a new Jetta Sportwagen tdi is a part of that story…cool. Weird, but cool.

So…all that is to say…my wife got a new car yesterday.

10 thoughts on “New Cars Symbolizing Death

  1. Ryan,
    Thank you for letting us eavesdrop on your thoughts and prayers. Your words are devastatingly beautiful… A powerful witness to the hope we have in Christ… An embodiment of the faith we have in a redeemer who promises that death does not have the final say–our story does not end there. Your testimony is a blessing to me.

    With gratitude and in faith,
    Jen Christy
    (friend of Ben, Jenn, Aaron and Chelan)

  2. I think of the verse that reads….the final enemy death is subjected …. as I read your post. I said it before and I say again…Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on Ryan. Praying for you and your family yet. Blessings Linda

  3. Why do you always say your wife is going to be alone? She isn't alone. She won't be. God will be with her, her kids will be with her, her Church family and the Church will be with her. :/

    • I hear what you're saying and in many ways I completely agree. At the same time, however, it is so critically important for me that I validate my wife's experiences. And I'm not sure there's any more isolating experience than what she's being invited to live into. While in many ways she is amazingly and beautifully surrounded by a cloud of loving and caring people the reality is that I don't think any of us can comprehend the loneliness that she is and will experience. I Think that even though people will be ready and willing to walk with and beside her, no one will be able to carry the weight of loneliness that her grief will bring.

      I mean you are right on target that god will never ever leave her or abandon her–she will always be cared for by His Spirit. But that doesn't diminish the amount of felt loneliness or isolation that losing your life partner brings. Death is the ultimate enemy and lies in opposition to everything that is beautiful in ods creation…and I think this includes the beauty of a marriage relationship. So to lose that in a tragic fashion should and will lead to a grief that I think is unmatched in most realms. Grief that I think is and must be very isolating.

      Anyway, sorry to write so much! Dont take this as me arguing with you whatsoever, I'm actually just processing this outloud here…ha, much Iike I do on my blog I guess!(maybe this should just be a blog post eh?) it gives me great confidence to know that if I die I'll be leaving my wife behind with an amazingly supportive family, a neighborhood that loves and cares for her deeply, grassroots conspirators who are ready to love on her, friends, and others who will not let her suffer alone. It really does comfort me to know that. But it's also crucial that I validate the reality of her pain and grief: none of us can understand and therefore we must all recognize and validate the reality of her alonness.

      • i understand what you are saying. if i were to lose scott, i would be devastatingly alone as well as surrounded by love.

        i do think the way you and jess have done your life, and done marriage, you will be all around her. not in some creepy metaphysical sense (but i hope in that way, too!), but in the way you have so deliberately done LIFE together.


        my friend jacob read your blog, and he said to me, "Given the opportunity to enter heaven or remain on earth as a ghost to walk beside my wife until she passes, I will choose ghost (then I go to heaven with a tardy pass)."

        i think you're going to find a way to do both. i believe that to the core of my being.

      • That makes sense. It's good to hear a better explanation of it. I am an optimist after all and seek to find the learning and joy in every situation, even deep loss and death of a close or loved one.

        Now, I cannot understand how empty it would feel to lose Cody, this is true. And I find it honorable and good of you to recognize your wife's feelings of loss and of loneliness for the time you will not be there. I can imagine the long nights of tears and heart break. But we can still praise God that she has him beside her and that you aren't going away forever. My hope is that her time of grieving will be lessened and helped with the support she has.

        Thank you for explaining and trying to help me understand.

  4. Thank you for being brave and honest enough to face the possibility that she will not have you with her. Thank you for preparing steps for her now that will make her life one little bit easier if you are not there in the future. Thank you for not living in complete denial and letting her have to pick up even more pieces after you (may be) gone. I don't know what else you do for her on an ongoing basis…a close friend of ours did all the banking in their family before he died of cancer…but having her slowly learn to take over these areas of life before she had to helped her ease into them before he was gone.

  5. Ryan, I have no right to speak into your life. You don't know me, I picked up your blog from another blog. And I'm glad I did. I've been battling advanced cancer for 13 years. You have said a lot of the stuff that I wanted to say, but lost my nerve. You have had to work through the emotions very rapidly that I have had a long time to adjust to. Thank you for being so honest, and so brave. Your wife, children, and parents have so much to be proud of in your character.

    If I had to give you one piece of unsolicited advice, it would be to challenge you to really believe God. Any emotion that overwhelms you, find Bible verses for each one and meditate, memorize, and pray over that verse until you completely believe God. His Word is alive, and He will carry you.

    Congratulations on the new car. It was very brave of you to make the decision, I know what a big deal that is.

    I will pray for you.

  6. I've been reading your blog since the Love Bomb drop, and I just have to say that your words here are making me live my life differently. I would've never, ever, ever put a new car at the top or even in the middle of the list of things to consider at a time like this. But reading it here makes me realize that this is exactly what I'd want someone else to take care of, if I could. Thank you for sharing your words with us. Congrats on the new wheels.

    • I'm back. I'm sorry. I don't want to be the jerk who suggests to you something that's not useful or helpful. I don't want to be any kind of jerk. But I've been learning a lot about this thing, and since I'm reading your blog, I keep connecting it to you–even though I don't know you. It's called Gerson Therapy. If you don't find it helpful or if you don't want to look into it, please don't. But on the off chance that you would find it helpful, I wanted to leave at least the name for you. Who knows.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>