The Grief-Tested Car

Elaine and me, Quietly Happy Together. Tahiti. January, 2004.

Reunions, Funerals, and Oil Lines

My daughter Elaine, grandsons Cadence and Sawyer, her husband’s sister Crissy, and Crissy’s baby Annabelle land at LAX in ten hours and twenty-five minutes. 
Not that I’m counting or anything. 
The U.S. Navy sent my daughter and her family to Hawaii in August; the U.S. Coast Guard sent Crissy and her family there in May. My co-grandma, Judi, and I will converge on the airport prepared to claim the most precious cargo on that flight: Our two daughters and our grandchildren. With our two SUVs stowed in the parking lot, we’ll stalk the baggage claim, watching the hallway for two tired moms, three children, two strollers. 
I think I may shriek. I’m sure I’ll cry.

Since they moved, Cadence has turned five and started kindergarten. Sawyer is a year old now; I’m told he walked on Thanksgiving. My son-in-law Rob has been promoted to chief. Elaine has settled her family in a new home, earned a SCUBA certification, called her mother faithfully. 

But today–later today–I can hug her. I can smell her hair. I’ve missed the smell of her hair. I can cuddle Sawyer and hopefully, still sweep Cadence up off the floor and into my arms.
We’ll caravan south from the airport, two Toyotas packed with rejoicing grandmas and girls come home with their own babies, stopping for carne asada burritos along the way. Elaine and Crissy have been craving them all these months in Hawaii. We’ll talk as we drive, catching up on details of our lives, planning the coming weeks. The children, maybe, will nap, snug in their car seats.

Our plan was that Elaine would have the use of one of our cars while she’s on the mainland. So we have an intricate plan in place, wherein Judi and I drive to the airport to collect our kin, then as we pass through Orange County, my husband meets us for dinner. Then I hand off the car and ride home with my husband. Elaine drives off in our second car. Then we spend a month being a one-car family.

On Saturday, Rich and I took this SUV for a drive. We were headed for Corona, about 35 miles away, to pay our respects at the memorial service for my cousin Dale. Now, I must say this: while my heart rejoices that my cousin knew our Lord and is resting, even as I write this, in the loving arms of Jesus, my heart hurts for the wife and children left behind, for my cousin’s brothers, for his parents. For me. Forty-nine is way too young.

Anyway, as we were driving, the car started billowing smoke and a horrible smell wrapped itself around us. Rich stopped the car and a cursory inspection, which Rich performed carefully, being dressed in his mourning clothes, revealed that an oil line had let go.

I called my father, who was traveling to the same destination from a different direction, while Rich summoned a tow truck. A short while later, a tow truck was dragging our broken car away and we were tucked into Dad’s red Honda, continuing on our way to this important family event. We arrived only a few minutes late, despite the unexpected complications in our travel.

It didn’t hit me until later: if we hadn’t driven to the memorial service, the car might have failed while I was en route to the airport to claim my girl. Worse, it could have left her stranded beside the road, waiting for help while two small boys sat in the back seat, confused, or rambunctious, or scared.

But that’s not what happened. Nope. The car failed on our watch, providing us with a chance to send it to the shop. Later today, when I hand the keys over to my daughter, I can rest easy, knowing the vehicle has been inspected, repaired, made true for her use.

I can’t wait to drive to the airport this afternoon. 

And all the way I’m going to be offering thanks for my family’s return, and for the heart-peace of a reliable car to offer to her.

God managed to drag something good out of a funeral for a man called home way, way too soon. 

17 The LORD is righteous in all His ways 
And kind in all His deeds. 
18 The LORD is near to all who call upon Him, 
To all who call upon Him in truth. 
19 He will fulfill the desire of those who fear Him; 
He will also hear their cry and will save them. 

Psalm 145:17-19 (NASB)

I’m linking up with my friend Jennifer Lee over at Getting Down with Jesus for her brand-new community. Won’t you stop by?


  1. Sometimes, it's only when we look at life through our rear-view mirror that we see how God's hand was actively working things out — even in the middle of what looked like a mess. I'm so glad you shared your story in community, Sheila. You're an excellent "God-spotter."

    Enjoy those kids! And may all of your travels there and back be safe and effortless. πŸ™‚

  2. Sheila Seiler Lagrand

    Hindsight is quite a gift, isn't it? Jennifer, thank you for providing a home for the community. So gracious of you.

    I WILL, I will!! Thank you.

  3. Carolyn Counterman

    Wow, Sheila. 49 is YOUNG. So sorry about that. So sorry.

    Glad that the SUV is running. Glad you are going to get to love on those babies!

  4. Sheila Seiler Lagrand

    Carolyn, Yes. πŸ™
    And YES! πŸ™‚

  5. Hazel Irene Moon

    Some would say, "Isn't that strange how it all worked out." Others would say, "Wow that was lucky." But we know the real reason is that God is with us directing our steps even when bad things happen.
    God is Good and his ways are perfect.

  6. Diana Trautwein

    Oh, so many reunion blessings, Sheila! SO glad you get to see these loved ones for a good long while. Are they staying in the San Diego area? Is Elaine your only child (besides your lovely 'bonus' kids, that is)? Makes this re-gathering even more precious. And the separation even harder, I imagine. Enjoy, enjoy.

  7. Sheila Seiler Lagrand

    Hi Diana,
    Yes, they're staying in San Diego, just over an hour a way. A Hop-skip-and-a-jump! Oh, it was so good to have my hands on them today.

    There is nothing quite like hugging your grandson tight, tight, and hearing him laugh out loud just from sheer happiness.

    And, there were reunion blessings at my cousin's memorial, too. Those are times when family needs to gather. And we did.

  8. Sheila Seiler Lagrand


  9. So thankful for God's protection for you and your family. Praying for the Comfort of the Holy Spirit to be ever near.

  10. Bradley J Moore

    There's always a silver lining, isn't there? God's watchful hand, His grace and miracles at work every day – if only we'd notice. Glad you're noticing!

  11. Sheila Seiler Lagrand

    Thank you, Cheryl!

  12. Sheila Seiler Lagrand

    πŸ™‚ That's a great way to put it, Bradley.

  13. Sheila – I see your lovely picture and encouraging comments wherever I go these days and thought it was high time I visited. I'm so glad I did. This post is just so good. It is amazing to me – the way the Father works in every situation.
    I am so very sorry for your loss and also delighted that you will have this time with your children and grandchildren. I have seven grandchildren and know what a precious gift they are.

  14. Sheila Seiler Lagrand

    Hi Linda,
    Thank you for your kind words. I'm so glad you dropped by!

    Our grafted family tree includes seven grandchildren, too. The other five all live within an hour of us. Every one unique and irreplaceable.

  15. By now you've had your reunion. Did you shriek? I cried while I read this. I know that sweet airport reunion. I'm looking forward to two reunions of my own this Christmas. Bless you, Sheila. Enjoy them.

  16. Sheila Seiler Lagrand

    I did, Deidra. And Cadence laughed out loud. And told me yes, he'd be happy to hold my hand "forever and ever."

    Today the pendulum swings. This morning I learned that two of our other grandchildren lost their other grandma overnight. She died unexpectedly, young, in her sleep.

    I don't know how people stay on the roller coaster without God to buckle them in….