Ever since Lucy was just one year old, she has loved her stuffed animal Piggy Lou. Recently, we’ve noticed that Lucy’s affection has taken the shape of some passionate guidelines about animal care.
When you love someone, you watch out for them — and that is how Lucy views her protective relationship with Piggy Lou. There are a few rules you must abide by:
- No touching Piggy Lou without permission from her “mom” (Lucy).
- Piggy Lou must be carried gently, preferably cradled in one’s arms. (“Like a baby!” Lucy would say.)
- Piggy Lou must always rest on a soft surface.
- When hugging, take care not to squish Piggy Lou.
- Piggy Lou is a house-pig. She stays home unless we are traveling overnight somewhere.
- No joking about Piggy Lou!
When I ask Lucy about why it is important to her that we treat Piggy Lou with such gentle care, her immediate answer is, “Because she is real!” And then she goes on, “And I’m a little worried about her tearing someday.” I think Lucy had a bit of a shock when she saw pictures of Jane Goodall as a child with Jubilee, her stuffed chimpanzee — and then again, some seventy years later, looking rather tattered (although, as Jane Goodall demonstrates happily in Jane’s Journey, he can still play his special song perfectly).
Some may encourage us to read The Velveteen Rabbit (which we have done), or to urge Lucy to relax a bit about Piggy Lou. Some would think that, between this and Lucy’s one-outfit habit, Lucy is exhibiting some rather strange behaviors. But I think this concern for Piggy Lou’s well-being points to Lucy’s sensitive spirit and deep awareness of the ephemeral nature of things. Almost since Lucy first started talking, she has had questions and concerns about death and loss. Sometimes, in moments of loving family hugs, Lucy will jump right from “I love you, Mama” to “I don’t want you to die.” I understand this instinct, the way the risk of loss lurks beneath each joyful experience. I wouldn’t wish this tendency of mine on our child, but I’m glad that I have experience with it and can help her work through it.
Our dear friend Lisa died last week, suddenly, at age 41. Our girls loved Lisa and spent many happy afternoons swimming, chatting, and having tea with this sweet woman. We are living in the middle, experiencing our own grief while also rejoicing for Lisa, who loved Jesus deeply and is certainly delighted to be with him now. I’m glad that in this emotionally intense season, Lucy has her Pig (and Rosie has her myriad of animals) and that we all have each other. My prayer is that Jesus will use Piggy Lou to teach Lucy about the constancy and nearness of our God, even in the midst of deep pain and loss. I think we may let the house-pig come with us to the funeral this weekend. I think Lisa would have liked it. And Jesus too.