In Which a Church Sign Asks a Good Question, For Once

During my drive from Rock Hill to Nashville on Saturday, I had to take a detour because part of one of the highways I take was closed because of a rock slide. Rather than take the posted detour I decided to let my GPS find me a different route. As it turned out, this was a bad idea because it took me through parts of Tennessee which slowed me down quite a bit, but it wasn’t all bad since I got to drive through some really pretty scenery. This detour also took me through some of the back roads and mountain passes in Buncombe County, which is where my dad’s side of the family is from since generations ago. As I was driving through these roads that looked familiar, that I imagined would all take me up to the family farms and graveyards if I turned on to them, I began to think about how my dad and I are the only two Shopes left in our little part of the family. My grandpa had a single son, who had a single son, and I am willing to bargain God with all I have so that I can have a son too and make sure the family name doesn’t end with me. These were the things I thought about as a drove through the haunted Asheville roads.

I passed a church on one of these roads, and outside the church was a sign that said “Will the road your on lead you to Heaven?” The first thing that jumped out at me about the sign was the simple and common misuse of “your.” But then I began to wonder about the sign’s question. Would the road I was on, quite literally, lead me to Heaven? If I kept driving my car down that road would I end up at the Pearly Gates in front of St. Peter himself?

I kept driving, down the North Carolina mountains, twisting and turning as I moved through snow-flecked forests. I’d been in that area before but never during the winter with snow on the ground, and I was shocked by the unexpected beauty of it. There were times when I could come around a turn and have a view of the top of the world and then minutes later come around another curve at the bottom and see the mountain faces rise into the sky next to me, and each time I was made to be quiet and calm by it.

I got into Nashville later that night, and since then I’ve gone to church, played video games, drank beer, and laughed about all the things we did in college. I haven’t done any school work yet and I feel okay about that. Spring has also sprung here, and today was the first day in months it’s been warm and perfect outside. My friends are here, and I’m seeing more of them in the next few days, and Nashville is still as much home to me as it ever was.

I was able to drive through my family’s ancestral land, wind my way around mountains in the snow, and end up in the company of my absolute best friends in the world, doing things with them that renew me and make me complete like nothing else does. So did the road I was on lead me to Heaven? I think it did.


4 thoughts on “In Which a Church Sign Asks a Good Question, For Once

  1. Erin says:

    I (being from the exact region that you were driving through) knew a Shope when I was in middle school. I bet you’re related.

  2. Josh says:

    I bet I am related to that kid. There’s some Shopes still up there, I think, and there are a few Michaels there too, which is my grandmother’s side. I think the Shopes that are there are probably cousins far removed from me though. My grandpa’s direct relatives have all married off and gotten different names by now.

  3. Fred says:

    Josh, that was beautiful.

    I’m not sure how many cousins are left in the area, but I’d bet there’s a bunch.

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