His story captivated us – and now, three years later, Mindy Sauer opens up. The first part of our conversation ran yesterday (READ HERE). Today, we continue talking with the mom about living with grief and life-lessons for her children.
Ben Sauer was just five-years-old when he died… just months after being diagnosed with an aggressive brain tumor.
That was three years ago. And for many of us, pictures of folks dressed in blue, or landmarks lit up in blue fill our news feeds, compliments of our Facebook memories. Mindy Sauer sees them in hers, too.
She sees how many people cared for her son, still care. “Every so often, people will come up to me at the grocery store or at the science museum or the zoo, and ask if I’m Ben’s mom. I guess I thought people would eventually just forget about us. But the words they express about the difference Ben’s life made in their life remind me that that WAS us. That was my son. And this is the effect his life had. And it just blows my mind.”
It was something our community hadn’t really seen before, at least not that I’m aware of. I’ve never covered anything like it – where it seemed to be what everyone in the community was talking about.
The blue lights, blue clothing, blue signs – so many praying for Ben, a boy most had never met. Mindy says she still feels a collective hug from the community, and knowing that her little boy – her sweet little Ben – made such a huge impact is something that does give her strength, “A few months ago, Jack said, “You know, Mom, I wish we were famous for someone else and not Ben dying.” Aye. I know, buddy. I wish the same. But it is what it is. And we’re all just trying to make the most of it. So God gets all the glory. In a nutshell, though, it’s just all very humbling.”
If you’re wondering whether Mindy gets angry, she does, “Yes, I do. I wish I could lie and say that my faith is so strong that it prevents me from harboring anger and resentment toward God. Sometimes, I just feel so hurt that God allowed this to happen at all. Why Ben? Why us? There are times when I grieve the loss of my own innocence, that faith that says, ‘I know my God will always take care of us.’ I’ve shaken my fists at God when people say it’s because of my gift with words that Ben was taken, so I could communicate with others. THEN TAKE BACK THIS STUPID GIFT, GOD! I hate it. This sucks. This whole thing sucks. And it will never not suck.”
The thing is, she has those little people to care for. She has to get out of bed. Has to go to the grocery store. Has to live her life. For Ben, because of Ben.
This mom who’s gone through more than most can imagine says she can’t give in to the monster that is anger, although it calls her, “But anger is a cancer in itself. Left unchecked, it will literally eat you from the inside out. I’ve known people who’ve had big losses in the past and are awful to be around, even twenty or thirty years later. They’re bitter and reclusive. They think the world is out to get them and that everyone somehow owes them something for their loss. And then I’ve known other people who’ve also had big losses in the past and yet they’re some of the most joyful people I know.”
Instead, they choose a life of joy. Of peace. Of hope. For Mindy, there’s no option, “I am no longer living for myself. I cannot be selfish. I cannot just absorb into myself, get lost in my own pity, and harbor bitterness about my situation. I need to be more. For myself, for my husband, but especially for my kids. No one asked for this to happen. I never asked for this. I never would have asked to be a sort of spokesperson for cancer, bereaved parents, Hospice, and Make-A-Wish. I hate it. And some days, even the fact that I get emails and mailings from those organizations (even though I’m very grateful for them and the blessing they were to my family,) I just hate it. None of us asked for this. And yet, here we are. So the question remains, what are we going to do with it? I want MORE for my kids. I want more than bitterness… so I will show them joy. I want more than sadness… so I will teach them empathy. I want more than hate… so I will pray for mercy.”
It’s an unfortunate life-lesson for her children, but Mindy says, an important one, “When we hear of another family going through a tragedy, we talk about it. We pray for them. We discuss how we can be an encouragement to them. This has many purposes: first of all (and perhaps the most selfish for me,) we remind our kids that we are not the only ones to walk hard roads. That the Lord didn’t somehow ‘have it out’ for us when He allowed Ben to go through this. That other people suffer through things that are sometimes even more awful than what we were asked to suffer. I want – and need – my kids to see that. The second reason is also for my kids’ health: I want them to continue to look outside of themselves when they’re sad. When we care for other people, it takes our mind off of our own pain. And we begin to empathize with how deeply hurt other people feel. And suddenly, it makes our cross feel a bit lighter. A wider perspective is a very valuable thing. Tending to the hurts of others makes our wounds feel more shallow. And lastly, this encourages the people we minister to. I hate the fact that we have this platform. But I have found that even the smallest bit of encouragement that comes from me somehow means more BECAUSE it came from me. My kids included. Others know that we suffered. When we reach out to them, they are encouraged to know that we have come through to the other side. That we have somehow found peace. And that they can do it too. I want these things for my kids. And so I have to model them first. I’m so grateful that I was given these kids to train… not just for the awesome humbling opportunity to watch them grow in faith, but so they could also be part of my own healing.”
So the bitterness is compartmentalized and only allowed to come out every now and then. The way Mindy Sauer looks at it, she has great deal to be thankful for, “The world owes you nothing. God owes you nothing. Life is hard. Sometimes bad things happen. And it’s not because God is up there with a magnifying glass trying to smite us for His entertainment. It’s just a result of being human. God has the power to prevent things and to heal, but He is not obligated to do so. He’s God. I am not. The sooner I can rest in that knowledge the better off I am. And so I get angry when I need to. God made me human, He gave me human emotions. It’s a normal reaction. Healthy, even.”
So, it’s a tough road, there’s no way around that. But, Mindy gets through the best way she can. Day by day. Moment by moment. Surrounded by her family – her husband, Andy and their sweet children, “Allison Faith has been such a wonderful exclamation point to our family. Andy and I hate the fact that two of our kids will never know Ben on this side of heaven. That I will never have one picture with everyone in my family. I hate that. Ben will always be missed. But it does encourage our hearts a great deal to see so many beautiful faces in our family van and around our kitchen table. As I said before, even after receiving such a huge blow, we’ve been given so much more than we deserve.”
Thank you so much to Mindy for spending time with us, opening up and helping others in the process. Mindy works hard to help others, to truly be there for others. It’s a big responsibility and we will have more on that tomorrow.