An Epitaph to a White 2001 Nissan Pathfinder

By Eugene C. Scott

Unlike some people I know, I’ve never named one of my cars. You know what I’m talking about. My wife’s family named a couple of theirs: an old gray truck they called the Gray Ghost and an 80 something Olds they called the GLC, Good Little Car, which it wasn’t really, either good or little.

To me cars have always been something to get you from point A to point B. Don’t get me wrong. I like and know the value of a nice vehicle. I’ve owned too many jalopies, especially in high school. I am intimately acquainted with tow ropes and jumper cables. No, automobiles were mere tools. You do not name tools.

So, I was surprised this last Monday when my mechanic Dean told me my eleven year old, 267,000 mile white Nissan Pathfinder’s transmission problem was “catastrophic.” (See my last post, “Life is Funny”)

Surprised for two reasons: first, this was the only time EVER in all those miles and years the Pathfinder had a serious mechanical problem. One day it was running as strong as ever and the next day it dies of the equivalent of a sudden heart attack.

Second, I was surprised by my emotional reaction to the news. I became depressed, mopey. And then I felt stupid for feeling depressed about a vehicle, one I hadn’t even named. But as I’ve thought it over maybe it’s not that silly to be depressed about my Pathfinder’s unexpected death.

After all, I had dreamed of owning a four-wheel drive since I was a skinny kid in high school. And besides being a 4×4, it was the nicest car I had ever owned. It had power windows and locks and an eight speaker Bose sound system that flat-out rocked. I loved coming down the hiking trail and seeing how far away the keyless entry button would work.

But the Pathfinder was more than a nice vehicle.

We bought the Pathfinder in February 2001 in Tulsa. A month later I loaded it with our dog Anastasia, my mountain bike, and all my clothes and drove it to my new pastoral position in Vail. The family would come later. The Pathfinder took me home to Colorado, after twelve years of yearning.

The family joined me in June and as soon as possible we loaded the Pathfinder up and went four wheeling, windows open, tires tossing rocks and logs, radio off, everyone talking about the wonder of God’s creation.

I see now we used it not just to get from point A to point B but to stay connected. We drove back to Tulsa to see our friends we had left there. And when my mom’s health declined dangerously, the Pathfinder flew up and down I70 to Denver and back racking up thousands of miles.

On one of those trips back up the mountain Emmy, youngest daughter, and I discussed the meaning of lyrics and poetry. I discovered a depth in her that day.

Finally, I wept all the way home–gripping the steering wheel, radio off again–after my mom passed.

Inside its four doors we connected with each other as well. My son Brendan and I drove together back to Tulsa for his freshman year at Tulsa University. We listened to Van Morrison and talked about literature and hunting and the future. Those 950 miles flashed by.

After my oldest daughter Katie was married in 2003, she and her husband Michael came to visit and we packed mountain bikes on the Pathfinder looking for new trails. On those rides we began to establish a new trail for our relationship too. A very good and deep one.

When my mom was healthier, we all drove to Denver and picked her up to spend Christmas with us in the mountains. She sat in the back with Emmy and sang Christmas songs along with a Jaci Velasquez CD. That’s one of my best memories of her last years of life.

My wife Dee Dee relished loading our snow shoes in the back of the Pathfinder and heading out for a wilderness trek. Those were our most treasured dates filled with laughing, praying, and wonder.

And then there are the hunting and camping trips; my time alone in its cab listening to Darrel Evans, Waterdeep, or Mars Hill Audio Journal. God spoke to me in that car.

Now I know I am sad at the demise of the Pathfinder not because I am materialistic (though on other grounds I can assure you I am). It’s just that in 270,000 miles you compile some meaningful memories. The Pathfinder was just a tool. It is what we used to get here and there. But–oh–the richness of the journey and–oh–the places it took us.

If I had named the Pathfinder, maybe Faithful or White Knight would have fit. But no, that would just be corny.

Eugene C. Scott is in need of another cool car and is co-pastor of The Neighborhood Church.

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13 Comments

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13 responses to “An Epitaph to a White 2001 Nissan Pathfinder

  1. Your Pathfinder was looking a little worn, especially with your rear light swinging back and forth. Nevertheless, it was a great vehicle. R.I.P.

    Does that mean you’re going to get that Toyota Tundra Truck you’ve been drooling over? They’re sweet!

    Michael J. Klassen

  2. John Moyer

    Way back in 1966, as an intern at University Hospital, met a family in transition from Kentucky.
    They were in deep trouble, traveling in their car, all their worldly possessions, the car was stolen. 5 children, threadbare clothing…
    I named their car: Stolen Home
    We managed to get them some aide, food, diapers, a motel room on East Colfax.
    Hate when someone steals your HOME!

  3. Georgie-ann

    Dear Eugene,…My sincere condolences on the demise of your trusty, I mean trusted, and beloved vehicle. I’ve been dragging out a soon-to-come transition to another car,…I’ll spare you and myself all the pertinent descriptive and emotional details,…(although I enjoyed yours very much and can well empathize!),…

    The outlook is auspicious,…I just hope my emotions will be ready for the change-over, the letting-go! It’s almost as bad as losing a long-loved doggie, the best cure for which is usually a new wiggly licky puppy — unless you’re just “over” dogs and a goldfish will suffice. That’s where I’ve been for quite a long time, but I think I’m approaching just about “over” goldfish & aquariums,…and especially the algae that goes along with them!

    Even though some things last for a very long time (at least it seems, until they’re gone), everything does eventually change. It’s good to learn some emotional flexibility and adaptability while transiting life, realizing that our good God is with us and, Himself, never changes. We can safely lean on, put our trust in, Him!

    Psalm 36:7 “How precious is Your steadfast love, O God! The children of men take refuge and put their trust under the shadow of Your wings.”

    Jeremiah 33:11 “[There shall be heard again] the voice of joy and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride, the voices of those who sing as they bring sacrifices of thanksgiving into the house of the Lord, Give praise and thanks to the Lord of hosts, for the Lord is good; for His mercy and kindness and steadfast love endure forever! For I will cause the captivity of the land to be reversed and return to be as it was at first, says the Lord.”

    Hosea 2:19 “And I will betroth you to Me forever; yes, I will betroth you to Me in righteousness and justice, in steadfast love, and in mercy.”

    …and in a nice, new vehicle, when need be!,…

  4. Georgie: We also lost our dog last Thanksgiving. We decided we are over pets for a while. Miss her a lot. She was the dog who used to ride in the back. I wonder if I could just “get over” cars. It would certainly save a lot of money. Eugene

    • I think, to be honest, you decided that you were over pets for a while.

    • Georgie-ann

      Dear Eugene,…I have a friend who is trying to “get over” civilization as we currently know it, and is living in a teepee most of the time in his own backyard, somewhere out in California. As far as I know, he’s quite happy with his decision. (I’m not sure about what his neighbors have been thinking!) I think the satisfaction factors and contentment possibilities with one’s choices, may outweigh the saving-money ideal — all things being equal — if one is to succeed in these X-treme counter-cultural simplification pursuits. After hearing your “Memorial Ode to a Fantastic Ride,” I would guess you’re not quite ready for the “getting over cars” step yet!

      Isn’t it nice to live in a “free country” where “it takes all kinds” can kind of work itself out in these interesting experiments and ideas? As long as we can truly desire to live in Peace with our neighbor, brother, friend, acquaintance, even quasi-enemy, granting each other some space to develop and grow is a real treasure,…obviously, I’m speaking idealistically here, but it IS part of our cherished traditions,…

      • Georgie:

        I lived in a tp in my back yard when I was about 14. I always have wanted to cut back on civilization. But I’m pretty spoiled and happy now.

      • Georgie-ann

        Eugene,…I finally found my white car’s name last winter (it was a brutal winter!),…I suddenly realized “she” was “Igloo!” Now, I’ll soon have to kiss her good-bye, I fear.

        I think simplification is great great great, as long as you have the basics in place,…especially as one gets “older.”

        But,…although I’m relatively “new” to it, what would life now be without the internet???

        Just sitting home alone with a sewing project, or something, to pass the time?

        Although I’ve spent many contented hours doing just that kind of thing, I’m not sure I’d be as contented as I would have been at one time! Life just keeps on redefining itself!

  5. beautiful story. Cliff and I were looking at old photos last night and came across our pics from our tree-cutting expedition last winter. As I saw that tree strapped to the roof of “Possom” I felt a deep sense of mourning. I didn’t understand it until I read your post. Possum was with me through my worst period of depression, drove me the fourteen hours it took to get to Arkansas and the Kingdom of God, and it picked up my future wife for our first date. It took my daughter home from the hospital and it managed to provide us transportation despite a severe limp its last year. I sold it for $500. I feel dirty saying that.

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