My need for spirituality has always been satisfied by the idea that the best (and, true, the worst) parts of our spirits live on through the people we touch, and through people they touch, and the people those people touch, and on and on forever—or at least until nobody is paying attention anymore.
Here's how it works:
Late in his life my dad bought a Volkswagen Passat station wagon. It was green. He liked to give cars nicknames (he was a Detroit ad man; cars were part of the family). Dad liked nutty nicknames. So he called the VW "The Green Bean."
He owned The Green Bean when he died. I needed a car at the time and The Green Bean had only 30,000 miles on it and it was a pretty sweet ride: sunroof, heated seats, a good sound system (with what must have been the world's last cassette player). So I bought it from the estate.
The VW turned out to be something of a lemon, and over the last six years I've poured a bundle into it, $1,000 at a time. Finally the transmission gave up the ghost and I didn't even bother trying to get my wife to swallow the $3K bill to fix it. We traded it in for a new Subaru over the weekend.
My dad got his cancer diagnosis right after Labor Day six years ago, the same week the stock market crashed and a bizarre wind storm on a sunny afternoon knocked out all the power in Dad's hometown of Middletown, Ohio. He was gone four months later.
The night after we traded in Dad's car, I told Scout (and retold Cristie) the story of that epic fall and gothic winter.
"You've been talking about your dad a lot lately," Cristie said.
"Because of The Green Bean!" Scout interjected.