Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Another Day Closer to Heaven

They say "time heals all wounds."

"They" are wrong.

Time doesn't heal. Time passes. Sometimes too fast, sometimes in slow-motion. But it does not heal.

I thought it would get easier. In some ways, perhaps it has. I don't feel Ben's absence every single moment of the day. I don't weep in sadness every hour, nor do I talk about him every time he comes to my mind. But I do feel a piece of my heart has been ripped out. A limb has been pulled from my body. Although it hurts at times, I am still functional. I still have the use of my other limbs, I still have a lot of life left in me. But I can never be what I had been. I will never be 'healed.'

Time hasn't healed our wounds. If anything, our pain has gotten deeper. Harder. With each passing day, we miss Ben more and more. Each new milestone reminds us that we are a "family of five, minus one, plus one." We lost one of our family members: a handsome, goofy little guy whose long eyelashes and dimples still make me go weak in the knees. The nights are hardest. And yet, the morning always comes. We still have three other kids here on earth. One of which that requires me for absolutely everything - around the clock. I can't give up. I have to soldier on. Be grateful for what I have, live for today and plan for tomorrow. Because I have no other choice.

After Ben died, Andy couldn't wrestle with Jack without feeling sadness over his absence. He could still see those fervent looks of determination as Ben would run up to tackle Andy and save his brother, yelling, "Twin power!" I still accidentally grab five forks for the dinner table. I still do a double-take when I see Jack wearing blue, his new favorite color, in honor of his only brother. Megan confuses the colors pink and purple, just like Ben did. And her goofy faces mirror his perfectly. Even the "Oooo-OOOO-oooo-OOOO-oooo" sound she makes when she's being goofy matches her brother's inflections to a tee. She reminds us of Ben in so many ways. And it is both beautiful and painful.
 
 
We grieve. We hurt. And yet we cannot wallow in self-pity. We are not the first to go through a tragedy of this magnitude, nor will we be the last. Andy and I talk a lot about Ben and how these past few months have changed us. We remember the vacation we took as a family last August, when he wasn't sick. We cry over the horrific ten days we spent in the hospital, painful memories that we wish we could forget. We are grateful for the decisions we made to have Ben at home until the very end and marvel that the whole thing happened at all. We extend grace to each other to go through our own grieving journey at our own pace. And yet self-pity is just not an option.

God has a purpose for us.
 
Jack and Meg playing with MagnaTiles, a family favorite

At this stage in our grief, we feel like we are in a sort of twilight zone. We are very aware of our loss. That Ben is gone. And yet, I wouldn't think twice if I saw Benjamin jump off the bus right behind his brother. There's a part of us that has felt Ben's presence over the past six months. And that if he were to come back, we wouldn't have missed a step. Perhaps that's largely because his twin has continued to do all of the things we had imagined they'd both be doing. But there are parts of us that still can't believe that this happened. That one of our kids is with Jesus. That he's just gone. Ben - such a good-natured, loving, healthy boy - is no longer here. I'm not sure that's ever really going to sink in.

And yet, time marches on.
 
 
 
This fall has brought many new changes to our family, but the most exciting has been the birth of Katherine Hope. What a sweet sweet baby. Good-natured, content, and very very loved. I knew that Megan would love her little sister because of her sensitive nature and love of baby dolls. But I honestly hadn't expected Jack to be so smitten. Such a protective big brother. He's convinced that she recognizes his voice and smiles or makes noises when he's around. There is absolutely no reason for us to correct him, though, because it appears to be true. "She really loves me," he tells me. I do believe you're right, Jack. The way she stares into his eyes makes me wonder if she really did meet Ben in heaven before making her big debut seven weeks ago. Kind of a deja-vu thing. And it's just beautiful. Kate has those light red marks on her face that disappear after the first few months. The doctors call them "angel kisses." Even though all of my kids have had them, somehow Katherine's "angel kisses" feel much more special. Megan's newest thing is to ask Kate questions, sometimes by holding up flash cards. "What's this, Kate? A sheep? A sheep? You're right! Good job, Kate! Good job!" and giving her an emphatic thumbs-up. Meanwhile, our seven-week-old is just gazing at her big sister with those deep stares, and kicking her legs in delight. I had no idea our baby was so intelligent! hehehe

We want to build again. Find our new normal, whatever that might mean. Try to enjoy what we have been given. To feel real joy in the moment: gratitude for the three kids the Lord has entrusted to us here on earth.
 
Jonathan Andrew, 5.5 years old
 
Megan Joy, 2.5 years old 
 
Katherine Hope, 7 weeks old
 
As we rebuild, it also helps to remember. I'm glad that we've always had a lot of pictures of the kids around the house. And that we haven't made any plans to take anything down yet. That's been a big part of our healing as well as for them. I kept the picture boards from the funeral for a while, but grew frustrated when they all started falling apart with the kids' frequent viewings. Instead, I made a photo book for Jack with the photos, entitled, "Me and My Twin." I watched him enjoy the book again tonight, pointing and laughing at the situations in each picture. "Awe, remember this? That crab was HUGE!" and "Ha! That was a really fun day!" I wanted to cry. Knowing what he lost and will never regain. But I also had to smile. What a wonderful collection of memories to have. Such a blessing that boy was to our family!

Nighttime is the hardest for me. Probably because I'm less distracted, the house is quiet, and I'm left alone to my thoughts. After I've allowed myself to look at old pictures, cry, and vent with my husband, I always end with, "It's another day closer to heaven." The fact that I know my son is there, that I have been guaranteed a spot next to my Jesus, and that my family will be joining me... I can think of nothing more comforting. I can't bring him back. But I can be encouraged about where he is.

When I tuck the kids in at night, I've always prayed for each of our family members by name. After Ben died, it seemed silly for us to pray for someone who was so much better off. And yet, I just couldn't leave him out of our prayers completely. Never mentioning his name would be more painful than forgetting him. And so after I pray for each of us, we also thank God for being the One to take care of Ben in heaven. Even those few words remind me not to try and pity Ben. As much as we miss him, we can only envy his current state. He is with Jesus. What more could I want for my son? For anyone in my family?
 
 
The truth is, life here on earth is scary. Unpredictable. Short. Just a quick scroll through your Facebook page and you know that is true. There is so much hardship out there. People doing terrible things to others, people getting sick, people dying, people searching for Hope and meaning. In the Bible, the only guarantee that Jesus gave us about this life is that there would be trouble. But He also reminds us that in the end, He wins! Our bodies will eventually give out. They were not made to last forever. But our souls will have a home with our Savior if we accept His invitation! We need to spend time doing things that will have an eternal value. We need to spend time getting to know our God and align our thoughts with His.

I would be lying if I didn't admit that I'm scared. I am petrified! I wish I could say that Andy and I will always be here to protect our kids. That's not true. Our bodies are mortal. They were not made to last forever. Do you want to know the best thing we can offer our kids? It's the knowledge - that deep, personal, heartfelt knowledge - that they have a God who stays.

Our pastor talked about this truth a few weeks ago. And it struck a chord with me and Andy. We had been nervous about the future, our health, our overall welfare. How would we ever recover if something happened to our other three kids? How would they recover if something happened to us? We knew better than to assume our family had somehow become exempt from any pain we might encounter in the future. Andy and I had been having nightmares, nightmares that illustrated some of the worst-case scenarios that could separate us from Jack, Meg, and Kate. Fear was becoming our god. And we hated it.

But then Pastor Jerry reminded us of the fact that we serve a God who stays. Who never leaves. And we realized: that is the guarantee we want to give our kids. Because that is the only guarantee we can offer!

The God of Abraham, Moses, the apostle Paul. The God of our ancestors, our parents, the God who lived inside of Ben. That same God has always been there and will never leave. Ever. And He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. I want Jack to feel His presence. To know His hope. To feel His peace. That even though he lost his twin, he will remember that God had never ever left him. I want Jack to know that the Lord cares for him with a deep, selfless love. And that He is the only One that will see him both take his last breath on earth and the first one in heaven. I want him to realize that we live differently because we have HOPE. That's what I need him to know. What I need all my kids to know.
 
Our knight, Cinderella and cowgirl
 
A good knight will do anything to protect his princess
 
So until that day when God calls us home, we will continue caring for our little family as diligently as we are able. We will get up each morning and look for ways to celebrate His goodness. Because even though we are walking through life without a limb, with a piece of our hearts missing, we still have work to do. And so we will continue to walk in a state of grief and joy, a world where the two feelings peacefully coexist.

One day at a time.

Because it's another day closer to heaven.

47 comments:

  1. Beautiful post Mindy. I agree with you, time doesn't heal wounds at all, only Jesus can. Thankful He is near to us when we grieve - Psalm 34:17-18 - He is near to the brokenhearted

    www.in-due-time.com

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  2. My Momma heart aches with you.
    Thank you for sharing this with all of us.
    One day closer to heaven.

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  3. Your words prove that through sadness, grief and pain there is still hope to be had. Prayers for your healing haven't ended.

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  4. Always moved by your faith. You lead by example and I'm blessed to have found your story. God bless Kate. I'm sure Ben and hee made Contact before coming to meet all of you.

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  5. I have no way of understanding the depth of your pain, having never gone through anything remotely close to your loss. But tonight I am grieving over the loss of my best friend who is moving away at the end of the month. I am feeling bereft and so very alone in my journey right now. Your words about a God who stays were EXACTLY what I needed to hear. Thank you for sharing your heart and allowing God and His truths to still flow through you and bless others.

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  6. Oh, how I have missed your posts, Mindy. So raw, so real, and yet full of God's Spirit. Thank you for being a vessel for Him. Praying that you continue to find a new normal until the day Heaven comes. May God's peace and love abound in you and your family.

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  7. Bless you. God loves you. He loves your family. I am going to pray for many tangible demonstrations of that love. And I will pray for sleep and rest for you, new mama once again. You are loved.

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  8. <3 Thank you for continuing to share your journey. You are an amazing mom to ALL of your children, the ones here on earth and Ben in heaven. He is with you always. And I firmly believe that Ben met his sister before she joined your family when she was born.

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  9. May the Lord continue to hold your family in His hands and bless you with His peace.

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  10. Your always brilliantly shining perspective, illuminates a gorgeous new facet of the portions of Scripture mentioning treasures stored in Heaven...your Beloved Ben

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  11. It is true that time appears not able to heal such a deep wound, at least not back to as before. But what I have found is that the healing will come, leaving scar tissue that is beautiful in the way it shows you the strength that has come from the healing. And like scar tissue, there is a roughness, yet there's also a different texture that speaks of the journey to mending. Please know that there is no timetable for grief, and it'll seem unbearable at times. On the one hand, no parent should suffer the loss of there child, on the other hand, God understa nds. And so we put those hands together and pray. In my prayers for you and your family I remember that you are all God's children and I lift you up to him. Someone somewhere is thinking and praying for you all when you are in your darkest moments because you have become dear to us and you have showed us the meaning of agape love. Peace and blessings.
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  12. God Bless you and your beautiful family!

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  13. Thank you for posting. Your words touch my soul as I walk a similar path. May you continue to feel the loving embrace of God's peace.

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  14. Beautifully written and sending you our love.
    xoxo

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  15. Know that you, your family, and Ben are thought of and prayed for each and every day. Momma hugs to you ♡

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  16. I buried my daughter over 3 years ago. You are right. Time doesn't heal the wound but I am so thankful for a Heavenly Father who is there, who picks me up when it is too hard to go on and who loves me so much. I pray that you will continue to be blessed with His grace and peace. Waiting for heaven with you...

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  17. No, time will never ease that ache. When my daughter Julie died in a car accident.. I always told anyone who asked how I was doing that I had one foot on earth and one foot in Heaven. And after many years, I still feel that way. I don't cry everyday now, I can laugh, go out to a movie, socialize. But I don't feel whole and I never will. Your children are gorgeous. I understand your pain, but you learn to live a new normal. And you are right, one day closer to Heaven.

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  18. My heart continues to ache for you and your family. Thank you for continuing to share your journey with us. Your words are so powerful. God Bless!

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  19. Yes, Mindy, thank you! I blogged a lot about my mom after she passed from breast cancer when I was 17 but one thing I remember feeling also was that yes, time marches on, but it doesn't heal. Only Jesus can do that. I think of you often and am praying for you all. I remember how tough the first holidays without her were, the whole first year, and then the next....so the prayers will continue. You are so loved.

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  20. I just loved your post today. When my daughter passed and then our son was born we went through those same feelings. -1 +1 should equal things out but it just doesn't. It helped tremendously when Griffin was born to ease the pain in our hearts (I swear God helps grieving mothers by adding extra to our plates). Not only was it wonderful to have that sweet baby smell in our house but I could also sense that he brought a small portion of his older sister with him when he came. Love and prayers for you all. xoxox

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  21. Mindy, I thought about linking to this when I posted last night but didn't want it to look like I was trying to promote my blog on your most wonderful page. I have preschoolers and my oldest has been asking a lot about death lately. Encouraged by your posts to stay with it and share with him, we had a lovely conversation about it (and truly, your posts were in the back of my mind). I sat down the other day to write a different blog post altogether, but I felt like this was the topic and the words that God gave me on the subject. Next to your posts and story, I am afraid that it (and my self-gratifying attempts at humor) look kind of cheap and silly. But if you can look past all that to the message that God shared with me, I wanted to share that with you. I know it is nothing you don't already know . . . but it never hurts to hear confirmation again and again. My family that has never met yours is better because of what you write. Anyway, here is the post: http://www.homespunheartsongs.com/#!-When-your-preschooler-asks-you-about-death-you-cant-do-it-worse-than-me/cmbz/8991AD9F-AD9A-4799-AE01-F524C6E9099A

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  22. Beautiful words. You are not the same--we are not after a loss of a loved one. But your words about the guarantees of God are so true. I find comfort in them. May you too. xx

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  23. Such love and faith. Peace to you all.

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  24. Beautiful, such perfect hope, as you share the coupling of tragedy with surrender to your King. May your heart be filled with joy today and everyday as you live in sweet obedience, until you meet again in heaven. God Bless

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  25. So beautifully written mindy and so true.Life does go on , But im sure ben is watching down on you all with love & hugs for all.I pray for you all always. .The photos are great , what a lovely family you have..God Bless x

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  26. Mindy, I haven't forgotten about your beautiful Ben. He has changed me, and his memory has positively changed the way that I mother my own three boys. I am training very hard to run a race for Ben the Saturday before Thanksgiving, a 5K in less than 30 minutes. It's a steep challenge for me, but each time that I train for it I hold Ben in mind. He has been my driving motivator! Hugs and love.

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  27. Thank you for sharing the open, honest thoughts and emotions you've had. We are in a similar situation, and it' always good for me to know that we aren't alone in anticipating all the treasures we have yet to see, including our firstborn son, in Heaven! Keep fighting the good fight, and may God continue to shower your sweet family with His blessings here on earth!

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  28. Mindy...God has used you as a vessel in my life, and I am eternally grateful.
    As I struggle to hold on to my 6th pregnancy (2 earthly blessings and 3 heavenly) in our final attempt to complete our family, I am continuously brought back to your example of faith. Your story has changed me. Your Ben has changed me.

    Thank you for being so real. So true. Thank you for your faithfulness to God's leading as He uses you to minister to many.
    Thinking of you and praying for you

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  29. Mindy- You do KNOW that you need to turn your writings into a book (or several). Just imagine how many people you would inspire with Ben's & your family's remarkable story of unbreakable Faith! What a perfect title (for at least one book)...Another Day Closer to Heaven! May God continue to bless you & your beautiful family!

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    1. I agree! Mindy writes so beautifully. I have followed their courageous journey through her blog. I hope she knows how much she has inspired us. I personally do not know her, yet I look up to her.

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  30. My blue light for Ben is still shinning in the window- I think of him often. Ben will be a part of the lives of everyone you reached with your powerful words and beautiful testimony. Keep putting one foot in front of the other with the vision of heaven before you. Thank you Mindy for sharing Ben and your inspiration of FAITH and HOPE. Love your family!

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  31. Mindy - God has blessed you with the gift of sharing your joy and pain through your blogging. You inspire so many people with your faith, love and commitment to your family and to our Lord and Savior. Jesus shines through you to so many people who do not know Him. May God continue to bless you and your beautiful family!

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  32. 55 years ago my brother died of brain cancer. He was 8. After he died, our family evening prayers ended like this - "And now we say good night to You and to little Al who lives in heaven with You. Amen." As young as I was, I found comfort in that phrase.

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  33. "I want Jack to know that the Lord cares for him with a deep, selfless love. And that He is the only One that will see him both take his last breath on earth and the first one in heaven. I want him to realize that we live differently because we have HOPE. That's what I need him to know. What I need all my kids to know."

    You and Andy are doing a good job teaching your children this. You are. You have a great model of how to leave a legacy of faith in your family and it is really encouraging for someone like me, a first generation Christian, to see that it can be done. I see your family week after week loving God, trusting Him, and serving Him in different ways despite the obvious grief you all are walking through. Keep on keeping on.

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  34. What a darling boy. I hope your heartache will ease some day.

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  35. Mindy, thank you for sharing your thoughts and beautiful family photos. Soldier on, dear girl, know God is at your side day and night and that Jesus is caring for and playing with your sweet Ben in ways we cannot begin to imagine. May God bless you all with His peace.

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  36. Thinking of your precious family during this snow storm. I'm sure Jack is enjoying it! God bless you.

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  37. Please, write more! Although we are from different religions, seeing your courage in face of such tragedy is awe-inspiring!

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  38. I think of your Ben often. Thank you for sharing your life with us.

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  39. I like to check in now and again, to see how your family is doing. If I ever have to walk the path you have, I hope I have your strength and grace.

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  40. I really needed to read this tonight. I love how just put your pain aside and remind everyone that our main focus should be on God. I lost my mom to cancer when I was just 14. I was an only child and my father became an alcoholic. Ten years later, I'm married to my best friend and we have a beautiful 1 year old. We are both church-going Christians but I've been living every day crippled with the fear that something would happen to me and I would leave my daughter like how my mom left me. But your post reminded me that worrying will do nothing and I just need to prepare her and show her that God always stays. Always. Thanks.

    You are such a blessing and I pray that God will bless your family with peace and comfort.

    Take care,
    Amanda

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  41. Sauer Family,

    I thought of you last night, and prayed for you. As Catholics, the 3rd Sunday of Advent is a special one. Gaudete Sunday is noted by the pink candle in the advent wreath. It is the Sunday of hope when the people in darkness see a great light. I pray that light, that hope sparks deep in your hearts as you endure this first Christmas in a lifetime of ChrIstmases without you beloved Ben.

    My family family endured a similar loss when my 6 1/2 year old brother died on Good Friday 1968. He had battle leukemia for 4 very long years. Decades later we still miss him, wish for him, mourn him. But that same light of hope that illuminated the sanctuary last night by way of a pink candle has kept our focus heavenward. It never completely erases the pain or the missing. But it does bring us peace. Peace from the Prince of Peace.

    I am praying the same for your family. Oh the ache will be ever present through the days ahead. But the light and hope that come from a babe in the manger walks hand in hand with your grief.

    I wish you goodness this Christmas with your 3 beautiful children, and your angel in heaven. I am so sorry for the pain. But as one who has walked before you, it won't always hurt so badly.

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  42. Thank you for such a beautiful and moving entry. Your faith in our God is inspiring. I pray that you continue to be strong and heaven-minded. I cannot imagine what you have gone through and I cannot choose the right words to comfort you, but I know that as these tears stream down my face, my heart prays for God's peace and love and presence for your lives.

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