“Alright Sister…we’ll talk soon, but until then, keep it in the road. Love ya,” he said. “I will…love you too,” I replied, pushing the end button, and flipping the phone closed. My headlights shone brightly ahead, pressing the darkness back, as I rounded the last curve before home. I pulled into the driveway and walked inside, my yellow lab there to greet me.
He called a little more often now than he did before. I think he wanted to see if I was doing okay, though he never actually used those words. He would call to “check in,” to see how my week was going, or simply say “hello.” The ink on my divorce papers had long since dried, but he still called frequently; this time, however, was different.
These were the last words he would ever speak to me. Less than a week later, he would take his own life. A decade later, I often still think about our last conversation and specifically his last words to me.
Keep it in the road.
I walked into a restaurant just this past weekend and overheard a conversation. An older gentleman said these same words to a much younger man, a grandson perhaps. Immediately, my mind was transported to another time and place. I was back on that dark road, rounding that same curve, lights shining ahead, and chatting away. I could hear the familiar sound of his voice, remembering each word spoken.
Sometimes the remembrance of his words brings me comfort. Sometimes they bring strength as I attempt to honor him by feeling as though perhaps I’m keeping my end of the commitment by keeping it in the road, even when life gets hard. Sometimes, especially in the early years, I would feel angry that he didn’t keep his end of the bargain. I felt hurt, and even confused, that he would ask me to “keep it in the road” when he didn’t do so himself.
And though the anger has faded, the grief remains.
Even after all of these years, I rarely speak of it and certainly don’t share it openly. How can a tragedy so long ago still feel so raw at times? Why should I talk about it? What good can come from doing so? I don’t have the answers; however, I hold onto the truth that God is not done…not in this situation and not in this world. And if God is not done, then there is hope. So while I do not like to talk about it, I feel compelled to share these five simple words…
Keep it in the road.
To you, drowning in the throws of motherhood, struggling with the feelings of happiness you assumed you would feel, juxtaposed with the sense of frustration and fatigue you actually do feel. Keep it in the road.
To you, struggling to make ends meet. Your cabinets are bare, your little one’s clothes no longer fit, and the rent is past due. Keep it in the road.
To you, suffocating with addiction, weighed down by your many failed attempts to live without the numbing, burdened by the knowledge that your family has suffered for far too long. Keep it in the road.
To you, watching your marriage spiral out of control, shattering the foundation you’d so carefully built, and feeling powerless to stop it. Keep it in the road.
To you, sitting in the nursing home, watching your loved one drift away to a place you can no longer reach, wanting so badly to laugh with them as you did all those years ago. Keep it in the road.
To you, grieving the loss of your loved one, wishing you could have one more talk, one more laugh, one more touch, and wondering how you’ll keep on keeping on without them here. Keep it in the road.
To you, silently crying beside your bed each night, and offering up prayers that seemingly go unanswered. Keep it in the road.
And for you, especially you, who just wants to quit. You are so very tired. Darkness presses in on every side. You can’t see any other way, and maybe you’ve even lost your will to try. Please, hear me. Keep it in the road.
Even when it’s hard, tiring, devastating, lonely, unbearable, or irrational, keep it in the road. Even when you want to quit, when the fight doesn’t seem worth fighting, when the journey seems way too long, keep it in the road.
Keep it in the road, because addicts do overcome.
Keep it in the road, because marriages are healed.
Keep it in the road, because new relationships are formed.
Keep it in the road, because financial circumstances are resolved.
Keep it in the road, because a new day will dawn.
Keep it in the road, because joy comes in the morning.
Keep it in the road, because God is not done. Because where God is, hope is. Because where hope is, life is.
Keep it in the road.