A life of Triumph: How this wonderful car helped my family through our grief

My late Uncle Ray loved cars. Well, that's not quite accurate. He loved Triumph cars. In my entire life, I don't think there was ever a time he didn't own at least one. The stories of Uncle Ray and his Triumphs were the stuff of legends.

Restoring Triumph cars was one of the many ways he spent time with his kids. Frankly, his love for his kids and all the ways he demonstrated that love was the thing I admired most about him. They spent hours, probably adding up to years, rebuilding old Triumphs. I imagine the conversations they had, the memories they made, and the bonds they formed. Actually, I don't have to imagine the bond. I've seen it and can tell you that every child should grow up with a father-child relationship like Uncle Ray had with his kids.

After Uncle Ray's Celebration of Life, the entire extended family returned to his home to continue sharing stories and memories and reconnecting as a 21st century family whose lives are spread across 13 states. If I included the family members not in attendance, we'd have to add another dozen states and two countries to that list.

The first stop at Uncle Ray's house was the garage that housed three of his Triumphs. We oohed and ahhed over their beauty and the attention to detail that Uncle Ray and our cousins gave to restoring these fine masterpieces of years gone by. Even me, as a non-car person, could not help but be seduced by their sexiness. There was a 1955 Triumph TR2 that was navy blue with tan leather interior, a cream colored 1967 Triumph TR4A, and a red 1960s Triumph Spitfire still in the process of being restored.

Much to my surprise, my cousin Andy opened the garage door and pulled two of the Triumphs out into the street, where, without hesitation, he offered everyone the opportunity to drive the TR2 and TR4A. My knees melted. I knew I had to ride shotgun in these cars. This was a once in a lifetime opportunity that I was not going to miss. I may not be a car person, but I'm no fool.

Every one of us took a turn. From my dad to my 19-month-old cousin Charlotte. Everyone rode in and/or drove at least one of the Triumphs. We drove the Triumphs through the subdivision, over the hills, and around the cul-de-sac. They live out in the country, so this was much further than it sounds. At first, we all drove a bit hesitatingly, not quite sure of the power of these cars and not wanting to do any damage. These were rare antique sports cars, after all. By the time we each rounded that first curve, though, we all found our grooves and our speeds picked up.

We talked as we drove. Our hair blew in the wind. Our laughter bellowed throughout the streets.

After riding in both the TR2 and TR4A, I decided I couldn't walk away without driving them as well. Trust me, driving those cars was exhilarating and I did not want to get out. We'll just ignore the fact that I almost couldn't get out of the TR2.

As I drove the 1955 Triumph TR2, my favorite of the two, it occurred to me that driving these cars was the most fitting way to celebrate Uncle Ray. If an afterlife exists, Uncle Ray was no doubt tinkering with a Triumph, sipping a beer, and smiling with his huge full-face grin knowing that that his passion eased the grief of all of his loved ones.

Enjoy the gallery below.

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    Jessica Gardner

    A native of Chicago's Northwest Suburbs and resident of the North Shore, Little Merry Sunshine comes by her name honestly. The story goes that as a child, she was always so happy that she even slept with a smile on her face. Her mom nicknamed her Little Merry Sunshine. It stuck, along with her insatiable desire to focus on the good in the world and to leave it a little better than she found it. She does this by sharing her passions and dreams, what inspires her, and maybe you too, and furthering the discussion about how we can listen to our better angels. You can reach her at LittleMerrySunshineCN[at]WowWay[dot]com.

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