When Hardy enlisted the help of Toby Keith and Luke Combs for a cover of Joe Diffie's song "Ships That Don't Come In," he probably didn't expect only one of the contributors would still be alive when the song came out.

Sadly, Keith died before Hixtape: Vol. 3: Difftape project — which features the new version of the song — arrived.

The project itself is a tribute to the late Joe Diffie who died March 29, 2020 due to complications of COVID-19. That Keith is now gone makes the song, which dropped Friday, March 29, 2024, an extra tough listen.

What Is the Song "Ships That Don't Come In" About?

"Ships That Don't Come In" was recorded by Diffie in 1992. The song tells the story of two fellas sitting at a bar contemplating life and its peculiar way of doling out hardships. Although their lives have not been easy by any stretch of the imagination, they are thankful for the opportunities they have had. The men choose to raise a glass to those who never had the chance to truly live.

The song is a reminder to live life to the fullest, take chances, and understand that sometimes a curveball will be thrown at you.

For Keith, that curveball was his stomach cancer diagnosis, which he revealed to fans in 2021. The world watched as he fought the disease with dignity and hope.

In 2023, he was looking forward to what was next in his life, beyond his condition.

"I finally got it in a spot where I'm really comfortable with it," Keith told Taste of Country at the time. "Everything's trending really well right now, and I'm not gonna let this define the rest of my life. If I live to be 100 or I don't, I'm going to go forward. I'm feeling good and I'm off of chemo and I'm rolling. We're just going business as usual, going forward."

It was just a few months later, on Feb. 5, 2024, that Keith died. That "ship" of healing and getting back to his music career never came in.

Listen to Toby Keith on Joe Diffie's "Ships That Don't Come In"

Toby Keith Dies: Jason Aldean, Luke Combs + More Stars React

Toby Keith died at the age of 62 on Monday (Feb. 5) after a battle with stomach cancer. His death left the country music community mourning one of its most influential figures and talented songwriters. Here are some of the tributes and memories artists shared as they grieved Keith's passing.

Gallery Credit: Carena Liptak

More From TheBoot