Friendship, Tears, and Pig Poop
Dena Johnson MartinDena Johnson is a former single mom to three amazing kids: Blake, Cole, and Cassie and wife to her high school friend, Roy. She strives to follow Christ each day and to lead her children to do the same. She delights in taking the every day experiences of life and turning them into biblical lessons for her children. Dena's daily prayer is simple: Lord, my life is yours. Live through me. Love through me. Parent through me. Let me decrease that you might increase. Dena is the founder of Dena Johnson Ministries, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping people find beauty through the brokenness of this life. Her heart's desire is to use her own pain to point others to the power of God who redeems every hurt, every pain. You can contact Dena at Dena@denajohnson.com. You can also find her blog at Dena Johnson Ministries.
- 2016 Mar 17
Sometimes as a single mom you find yourself doing things you never dreamed you would do. And, when you are a single mom of boys, you really get into some smelly situations.
Take my sweet Cole. Cole is my outdoorsman. If it involves being outside, he’s all in. Hunting. Fishing. Camping. Shooting guns. Hanging at the farm. He is simply all boy.
Even when he was little, he did everything with gusto. Fear was never going to hold him back. For example, when he was two years old, I walked into my brother’s living room to find Cole perched precariously on the arm of the couch. He stood there, arms swinging back and forth as if to gain momentum, as he said, “It’s kinda scawry, but I kin doo it…” And with that, he took a flying leap across the room, from one couch to another several feet away.
Yep. All boy.
And so, when he came to me with a hair-brained idea last fall, I simply took it in stride. Ok. Maybe not. But somehow I went with it.
Cole decided he wanted to show pigs. Yes, we live in an area with a large number of agricultural students. Yes, we come from a family of farmers. But, my child wants to show pigs? Take time out of his school day to devote to pigs? School is for reading, writing, and arithmetic. Not pigs.
Last summer, he mentioned pigs to me. I kind of brushed it off and didn’t give it any serious thought. But, the next thing I know, he comes to me and says, “Mom, I have $300 so I can buy my pig.”
Excuse me? He’s been putting back money to buy a pig? He’s been working hard to save his money to buy a pig? He’s really planning to buy a pig? And how do I say no when he’s worked hard to save the money on his own?
I’m not sure I ever actually said yes to this little venture. But the next thing I know I am depositing Cole’s money into my account and writing a check for $300. To pay for a pig. A PIG!
Now, I have to admit that when I saw the little thing, he was kind of cute. Just a little bit. But, do you know how much pigs eat? And they destroy the little heat lamp you buy to keep them warm and you have to buy another one. And then they destroy that one. And they require shavings for bedding. And then they use the bathroom in those shavings and you have to buy more. And you need a little whip thing to make them walk where you want them to go. And they like vanilla wafers…a lot. And they have to be fed twice a day. Every. Single. Day. And you can’t keep them in your nice little subdivision so they have to stay at the school farm ten miles away. And they need a brush and shampoo. And you have to get them cut (don’t even ask). And then you have to submit DNA and get blood tests. And then you have to pay to show them. And they eat. A WHOLE LOT.
And I can’t help but think about the story of the prodigal son every single time I feed the pig. And that’s totally beside the point.
Did you know that in a matter of four months, that cute little pig grows into a 300 lb hog? And maybe it’s not so cute at 300 lbs.
But somewhere along the way, Pig stole Cole’s heart. And, yes, he kind of stole my heart, too.
Cole took Pig to the county fair a couple weeks ago. We had almost decided showing pigs was just too much for this season in our lives. And then Cole and Pig won first place. And made sale. And Cole made enough money to buy two pigs for next season. And mom caved and said he could do it again next year. I’m certain I will live to regret it.
But this week was Oklahoma Youth Expo, the biggest and most important show of the year. It’s also a terminal show, meaning after you show your pig, you tell him good-bye, and load him on a truck. He’s then hauled away to an auction.
All season, Cole was convinced it was no problem. He’s a big, tough boy. He would be fine when it was time to tell Pig good-bye.
But today… Today was the day. He showed Pig. They walked the ring. They were sifted (meaning they didn’t win). And suddenly, it was over.
As I was looking for Cole after he showed, I received a phone call from one of Cole’s friends. They were back at the pen with Pig, and I was needed. There, on the ground in the shavings, sat my sweet little Cole. Tears streaming down his face as he wrapped his arms around Pig. Unprepared for the final farewell.
And, here comes Mom, dressed in her work clothes, jumping into the pen with her son and Pig. It didn’t matter that there was pig poop surrounding us. It didn’t matter that I would go straight to work covered in said pig poop. The only thing that mattered was that my son was sad, facing one of the most difficult good-byes of his short life.
As I knelt next to him, I placed my hand on his back and he began sobbing uncontrollably. And so did I. For all the trouble Pig has caused us, our hearts were broken to send him away. Somehow, he had become a part of our family.
Eventually, we began the long walk to the truck. I was amazed at the camaraderie of the school’s agriculture family—and it truly is family. As we began the walk, tear-stained faces, fighting the ugly cry, man after man stepped up to make the walk with Cole and Pig. They embraced him as he walked down that long aisle to say good-bye to his first Pig, the one that stole his heart. Together, we made the difficult trip. Even as I write this, I’m having an ugly cry thinking about the moment, the final walk.
I never imagined I would be sad to see Pig go. I was over the feeding and the time he consumed months ago. And yet, it’s amazing how attached we can become to an animal. Or to an object. Or to a person. It’s amazing how our hearts can be broken when it’s time to say good-bye. It’s amazing how difficult life can be.
But isn’t it wonderful to have people who love you enough to come alongside you and crawl around in the pig poop with you? Isn’t it wonderful that there are people who are willing to make the long and terminal walk with you, who will support you and comfort you when your heart is broken? Isn’t it wonderful to know that we aren’t alone on this difficult journey known as life?
And isn’t that the way God designed it? He never wants any of us to travel this journey alone. He wants us surrounded by our Christian brothers and sisters, walking the long road with us. He wants us, as Christians, to forget that we are wearing our Sunday best and to kneel down in the pig poop with our hurting brothers and sisters. He wants us to be family to those around us, loving and supporting them when they need us most…when they are mired in the smelly life we sometimes live.
Today has been a tough day. A really tough day. There will probably be more tears in the coming days as we miss our little friend (he really was pretty sweet). But we will always have the memories.
And, the pig poop…which is still all over my shoes and my car.