My father died in April, following a two-year battle with multiple myeloma, which is a painful form of bone cancer. By the grace of God, the end came swiftly, and he did not experience the awful, final stages of the disease. Within a few days of his death, he was able to play golf, go to church, talk on the phone and even listen to my sermons on the internet. He woke up one day, had trouble breathing, went to the hospital and died later that evening from pneumonia, which is a complication of the disease.
We were very close and shared a love for many things: the Presbyterian Church USA, sports (including a heavy diet of ACC basketball), playing golf together … and Mercedes Benz. (If someone could tell me what the plural of “Mercedes Benz” is, I would be most grateful!)
I talked him into buying his first Mercedes Benz. He was a loyal Buick man prior to 1974. I had been pestering him for sometime to ditch the barge-like, puke-green Buick Electra and buy something a little more sporty – hoping, of course, that when I turned 16 he would simply pass on the keys to me. He saw through my efforts and resisted my sales pitch, but we went to Europe that summer and he rode in a Mercedes Benz taxi on the autobahn. I saw the smile on his face as the Benz effortlessly sailed through the Black Forest.
When we returned to America, I convinced him on a rainy Saturday (We only bought things when it rained on Saturday; otherwise, we played golf.) to go test drive a Mercedes. He consented. Our entire family went to the nearest dealer, and we were soon sailing down Intestate 40 in a light blue 1975 Mercedes Benz 450 SEL … at 110 miles an hour. When my mother pointed out the speed, his only comment was, “Gee, it feels like we are only going about 55 miles an hour.” I knew he was hooked.
He bought the car that day and drove Mercedes faithfully ever since. He drove big ones, small ones, clunky ones and one station wagon (aka The Bat Mobile). He loved his Mercedes but he never worshipped them. He was always generous with them. He let me borrow them whenever I needed a car. He didn’t get upset if it came back with a ding or a scratch. He gave me an old one once, and one his grand-daughters totaled it. He didn’t sound upset on the phone when I broke the news to him. His concern was for her safety.
A few months before he died he bought a new one – a spectacular silvery light brown 350E. In grief, my mother insisted that she couldn’t sell the car, so she gave it go me. And I think of him every morning when I crank it up.
Of course, it’s a little awkward for a Minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to be seen driving such a fine automobile. (“What would Jesus drive?” makes for good discussion.) But my father taught me well not to covet or worship things – like cars. One of his favorite phrases was, “Its only money,” meaning money is not ultimately important. And he taught me not to define myself by what I drive (or wear). I am who I am whether I am in my daughter’s old 1992 beat-up Cabriolet or his brand new whip.
When I returned to Denver with it, I was rear-ended within a week by some women texting and driving. I didn’t get angry. I didn’t panic. I smiled to myself, thinking that this was God’s way of reminding me: it’s just a car. And I heard my dad’s comforting voice (through the OnStar speaker?), saying, “Well, that’s why people have insurance. Are you okay?”
I feel a little silly driving a Mercedes. My mother has given me permission to sell it next year if I have to, but you’ll probably have to bury me in it.