Selling My Dead Cousin’s Nissan

There Is A Car For Sale.

For a month a Nissan Rogue has been parked in my Mom’s driveway. It’s a white SUV covered in a layer of dirt. The sun has begun to bleach the paint and spots of rust are growing along the brake pads. Technically, it’s only been in two accidents but only one really shows. 

The car is in my Mom’s name now. 

Before, the car belonged to my cousin, Jamie, but Jamie passed away in February and now the car—that isn’t too bad on gas mileage and has spacious room in the trunk—has become somewhat of a burden on the family. As bad as that may sound, nobody really wants to go near the Nissan, not out of laziness to sell, but because the car has been a lingering reminder of Jamie, as if she hasn’t been on all of our minds enough.

 The rush to put a car onto a market where used ones are difficult to find has slowed to a crawl as members of my family mull over just how the process should go. Money always seems to be an issue, and countless names were tossed around as to whether or not they should rightfully be entitled to the car and the potential payday that one would receive from a 2016 model with four-wheel drive and, I forgot to mention, only 92, 250 miles on the engine.

Jamie has a daughter, Miah, who is only ten and can’t yet drive, so the decision landed on selling the vehicle and giving the money over to her, placing it in a fund for college, dropping it into a bank account that unleashes the levee of cash when she finally turns sixteen, perhaps. 

These ideas were all floated out, and I remember at Jamie’s funeral reception, while I ate the potato salad that many refused to stray close to, the subject of the Nissan’s fate was brought into question more than I thought a car would. Who would want the car? What would need to be done to the Nissan if they decided to sell it? Would anyone want to drive a Nissan? In the moment, a Nissan was the last part of Jamie’s life I wanted to think about. It was just a car, so what? 

I will be the first to admit that I was not as close to Jamie as I should’ve been. I distanced myself from a lot of my family over the years, but Jamie was one of the few that I felt understood how I was feeling, she gave me my space and didn’t pester me with questions about the future. And yet, many of us were not able to understand her and what she did in her efforts to provide a good life for Miah. We judged her for choices that nobody but herself could understand, and ones that many never took the time to learn more about.    

It’s taken me a lot of time to write about my cousin. She was a beautiful soul, a mother who would do anything to give her daughter the world, and a personality that made me feel welcome at family events where I had been forced to attend. I could always count on her for a hug, an embrace that gave me the impression she could snap me in half if she wanted to, but would never, and could never. Of course, like any large family, some members make questionable decisions. I’m not saying that Jamie didn’t, but to judge someone who is no longer here for what they chose to do or not do doesn’t sit well with me. Everybody makes mistakes and their life travels on a path that they would have never expected, and what’s great about family is that when life gets tough they’re ready to support whoever is in need. The irony is that many never realize this until the worst possible scenarios have happened. 

Death puts life into perspective quickly. It makes arguments about money, lifestyles, work, rent, school, truly everything, seem futile. 

Yet, the struggles with Jamie’s Nissan have made me wonder what happens to our belongings once we pass, and how it seems that lots of things simply become pricetags as we attempt to cope with the loss of a loved one.   

So, now there’s one lasting piece of Jamie in my Mom’s driveway. When I last came to visit I peered inside. Black suede interior instilled with thousands of cat hairs, the lingering scent of cigarette smoke, vape juice, trash bags and Miah’s schoolwork scattered throughout the backseats. It was the car of a woman who worked multiple jobs and picked her daughter up from school everyday. Her life was never sound and I heard many times that money for the two of them was tight, but Jamie was maintaining, or at least, portraying that she was as mother’s so often do for their children. 

In early February, Jamie and Miah were staying in a hotel near Lochbuie. She had been struggling with asthma attacks for a large amount of her life, and on her way back to the hotel, parking her car, Jamie had an attack. Some time passed before she was able to get help, and what started out as an asthma attack became a heart attack. She passed away hours later. Her organs were donated to four strangers in need of help. The idea that her last moments were in a Nissan Rogue still upsets me and I’m certain this detail will be left out of the ad.  

The process for getting a car out of somebody’s name, and especially someone who has passed on, is not an easy task. My Mom detailed the struggle to get the title switched over, the battles over the phone with the insurance, some of the maintenance fees that came along with the vehicle, and of course paying off the rest of the car payments that were owed. And that just begins the cavalcade of problems and annoyances that follow as one tries to sell a used car. We haven’t even gotten to posting the ad on Craigslist yet. The conniving vultures who hover over the internet ad space looking to get the best deal possible for a car will be the next issue, and there’s no way Mom will be able to handle haggling over her niece’s car without breaking down, so that duty will fall back to me, my salesman skills return. 

There’s an art to selling a used car. My second car was a Subaru Forester, a rectangular-shaped boat that I quite literally drove into the ground before moving on to a much more mature vehicle (Honda CRVs are all the rage, spacious and average fuel-efficiency, who doesn’t want that?) When it was time to sell the old beast, I watched three people walk around the car, poking around the undercarriage with flashlights and one who wanted to go for a test drive, before everyone declined the offer or wanted it for less money. Something didn’t sit right with me about selling my car on the used market, the battered online lot where middle-aged cars nearing their expiration dates wait to be bought.  

But this car is not a Subaru Forester, we’re talking about a Nissan Rogue here, a vehicle meant for the extreme Colorado weather, a safe mode of passage through the lulls of everyday life. A vehicle that my cousin drove through a foot of snow just to make sure Miah could make it to one of her cheer events, the very same seats she slept in when she had no other place to go. Humans spend a lot of time in cars. A lot of our asses are permanently imprinted into the seats. They can become a refuge when you can’t spend another minute inside, or be the place where you look over, or in the rearview, and see the people you love most.  

Some guilt surrounds Jamie’s  Nissan, that much is true. My Mom has admitted that she feels she can’t go near the car, and that at times when she returns home from work and sees the Nissan parked in the driveway she’ll forget that Jamie is gone for a brief moment before she remembers what happened. My Grandma helped and supported Jamie a lot. Jamie’s mother, my aunt, passed away before I was even born. But Grandma wants nothing to do with the Nissan. The wound is still too fresh to deal with what needs to happen. 

So now we’re left with a Nissan. The memory of Jamie surrounds the car and makes me wonder if money is the only objective here, or is getting rid of the car some twisted form of healing that we are all attempting to unearth. Keeping the car feels selfish; and watching the Nissan idle in the driveway because we are too ashamed to let go of what we have left of Jamie would be the opposite of what she would want. 

Could we get the most value out of this Nissan, for her, by selling it to some stranger who will want to inspect the engine and do his due diligence before he lowballs an offer? There really isn’t any offer that I think would be high enough for a Nissan Rogue that was owned by Jamie, but doing right by her, and all that she did to raise Miah, would be to make this car the most incredible Nissan that ever hit the resale market. Completely blow this ad out of the water. Make the pricetag that we have put on a piece of Jamie’s life as grandiose and incredible as we want, and something that she would surely laugh with everyone about. 

This Nissan Rogue is the Mercedes-Benz of used cars, a vehicle with the capability to handle any situation and only leak oil in the summer. The engine hisses when it starts up, but I’m pretty sure that’s just some leftover nitrous being released. The free trial for Sirius XM Radio expired four years ago. There are no rearview cameras and the calcified stain in the trunk isn’t any of your business. The Rogue can technically become an ordained minister in the state of Utah. The GPS only finds any Burger Kings that are in a 25 mile radius of your location. Cruise control makes the car head straight towards the nearest body of water. The Rogue once helped shelter a litter of kittens from a flood. IF this Nissan had wings, it still wouldn’t be able to fly, because it’s a Nissan, and Nissan’s don’t need to fly they just get the job done. 

Cash only. Small bills accepted. Any offers?  

Once the ad for the car is up, I will try to ignore the thoughts of how much money Jamie’s last belonging will be worth. I will stand outside and watch bulbous-looking men struggle in the summer heat as they point out issues they see. There’s a slight ding on the right side where she got hit; the taillight on the rear driver’s side is cracked. I will tell stories about the Nissan Rogue that never happened. The only truth that I will reveal about the Nissan is that it was owned by a single mother who loved her daughter more than anything in the world, and there’s no dollar value that could ever come close to replacing the hole in this world since Jamie has been gone. 

For inquiries into the Nissan Rogue, please contact me.

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