People ask how we're doing. How we're managing this road called grief. How we're holding up.
We're doing well. We're healthy. We're finding joy in the simple things again. We're looking for ways to celebrate the everyday. We're excited about what God might have for us in the future.
We miss Ben like crazy. That's obvious, I suppose. We cry, remember, laugh, celebrate and feel anger for his loss... all emotions crammed into one breath in a matter of minutes. We visit the tragedy of it all. Allow ourselves to hurt. But we always have to come back to reality. To remember everything we still have. Ben's loss is a pain that we will always carry. An absence we will always feel. And we're learning to live with that loss. As a friend pointed out, "It's okay to not be okay." So I guess you can say that we're just doing the best we can.
We're determined to live life. And live it to the fullest. Because that is precisely what God allows for us to experience through Him.
This is what living looks like.
I treasure these quiet and blissful moments with my kids.
Jack practicing his side kick with his best buddy. His daddy.
Decorating Easter eggs. Giving each other (and even yourself) bunny ears is all the rage with kindergarteners, I guess. Oh, and do you like Megan's bangs? She cut them herself. Eek! Couldda been worse! I suppose it's a sort of pay-back for me playing hairdresser with my little sister growing up!
Jack and His Shadow Called Megan, surveying the "wildlife" in the puddles out back
So very grateful for our Katherine Hope!
Because a pond wasn't going to dig itself. Obviously.
I love Jack's eagerness to teach. And love. Share moments with his littlest sister. So gentle. So unexpected.
I am so incredibly grateful for a husband, partner, father and best friend who lets us experience emotions as they come. Good and bad. He is God's best gift to me.
My little sister is getting married! So very excited for Nick and Marissa's fall wedding (and the fact that he invited me to sneakily take pictures of the proposal!) A man who knows our family's love of photos and capturing memories - he's definitely a keeper!!
Making mud pies. In a Hello Kitty bucket. With a stick and a golf club. I'd scold them if this activity didn't consume so much of their time.
Digging for worms. These hands look so much like my boys.' But the shirt color and beaded necklace (as well as the nail polish you can't see) definitely point to my girly tomboy Megan.
Pajama-loving, hoodie-wearing, mud-digging, and with two different dress shoes on... that's my girl.
Siblings? Oh, yeah.
So much admiration for her big brother. I didn't even mind that they picked every single one of the daffodils in my yard. Because they picked them for me. I am so lucky.
On the hard days, when life is overwhelming and I just want to crawl into my own skin, shut the blinds and forget everything that has happened, I try and take one step at a time.
I get out of bed.
I brush my teeth.
I throw in another load of laundry.
I pick up Kate from her crib.
I make my kids something to eat.
I load the dishwasher.
And on special occasions, I take a shower.
Sometimes, I even put on mascara.
None of these things may seem like a big deal (except the shower - ask any mom with young kids!) but doing these essential and mundane tasks reminds me that I am human. And I can feel. And we need to keep on going. Moving on doesn't erase the hurt. It doesn't take away the pain. But doing one task at a time helps. We still have work to do here on earth. And living life is one of the best ways I know to honor my son's life.
I've also found another great way to boost my mood is to encourage someone else. To remind myself that we are not the only ones to have suffered. We are not the only ones who are hurting. Reaching out to other moms who could use an extra hand, a kind word, or a smile of encouragement help to pull me out of some of my deepest moments. Keeps my mind from spiraling down too far, too fast. It keeps things in perspective. And also reminds me that I'm not alone.
Andy and I have decided to be purposeful parents again. Intentional. Proactive. To parent our kids in a way that we remember the end-result. What we'd like for them to be like as adults. That's what we've been working on over the past few months. If we want them to be patient, we need to provide opportunities for them to wait for their turn. If we want them to be grateful, we need to allow them to experience the joy of working for a reward. If we want them to use proper table etiquette, we need to have instruction and practice at the dinner table. As sweet as our children are, it is obvious that these things are not instinctual. Being kind to your enemies, using gentle words in response to harsh ones, thinking of others before yourself... none of this comes naturally. Being a Christ-follower is about being counter-cultural. Doing the opposite of what feels natural. That's why parenting is so difficult. We are fighting an uphill battle!
But, oh my word, is it worth it. We are far from perfect, far from where we want to be. But I seriously melt into a puddle when I hear Jack including Megan in his activity. When I see Megan carrying the scissors the appropriate way across the kitchen. When I see them both stop at the end of the driveway before continuing on our walk. Because those are things that had to be explicitly taught.
Our family celebrating Jack's sixth birthday with family. We hadn't even noticed the blue balloon in the background until later. Another God-wink. We know Ben is always with us.
And can I just say how grateful I am for these three angels? I know they're mine. I'm allowed to be biased. But man, God has been so gracious in letting us care for these kids. Jack is excelling in most everything. He loves science and math, and is just starting to get the hang of this whole reading thing. (His first mostly-independent reading book was a National Geographic one about frogs!) He just earned his green belt in karate and we just started the new baseball season through the town. He's focused and passionate. Definitely not the best athlete out there, but man, you can tell that kid's got the spirit of a true athlete. Always our firstborn, he is eager to please and a beautiful example of faith. Megan is spunky and extremely proficient in antagonizing her big brother, mostly because of her intense admiration for him. She repeats everything he says, wants to sit next to him 24/7 and tries very hard to keep up with him physically. Yesterday, she said, "Mom, I gonna go outside 'n play wit Jack. 'Cause he's amazing." She loves wearing her rain boots in the mud, digging for worms and twirling like a princess. I can't tell if she's a tomboy princess or just a beautiful combination of everything fun. She brings so much levity and fun to every single day. Kate is a pure joy. Admired by both siblings, she is not left alone for too long. You should see how her whole body jumps when Jack hops off the bus each afternoon. Those two definitely have a special connection. She just started saying, "Dada" and so the other kids are diligently trying to teach her more words to add to her vocabulary... it might take some time, though.
They are our gifts. Our reward. Our gifts to future generations. And we thank God for them everyday.
Now, I've been a Christian all my life. I've always known that heaven was guaranteed to me because I had claimed Jesus' promises as my own. But I have never been more confident about the idea of heaven than I am now. And now that a piece of my heart is literally waiting there for me, it doesn't feel so far away. I get chills to think about the view Ben has of a magnificent sunset. How he feels the splendor of a beautiful day. The idea of him sitting at the feet of Jesus. That very thought covers me like a warm blanket. Heaven is for real, guys. And I'm so excited for when my whole family will be all together there someday. Until that day, however, we've got work to do.
We are ready to rejoin society. Get organized. Plan for purposeful times with our kids. Because the time we're given with our kids goes by so fast. And at the end of the day, all we have are memories.
In just a few days, we will be celebrating the boys' birthday. Cinco de Mayo. Except this is the first time we'll be celebrating without Ben on this side of heaven. I'm dreading it, for sure. But I refuse to be pitied, to let the sadness overshadow our joy. There will be tears. I can pretty much guarantee that. But I also know that I have another boy who is over-the-moon excited about turning six. He's had a paper chain for the past month, ripping off just one piece every morning, counting down until his birthday... and begging us to let him open his birthday gifts sooner. And so we will celebrate. Even with our pain, we have so much still to be grateful for.
Jonathan "Jack" Andrew
We had Jack's family party earlier this week. Andy and I did everything we could to distract ourselves from getting too emotional. We stuffed a piñata with several pounds of candy, got a dozen helium balloons, my mom made him an amazing Nerf gun cake, and I sewed Jack a birthday shirt. The day came and we were teary. Oh, how we missed Ben! Our family members started pouring in and we could tell that no one really knew what to say. It's a gentle balance, celebrating Jack while also acknowledging the loss of the other boy that made him a twin. We talked about Ben, shared some tears, and wiped them away as we all enjoyed the sight of the cousins running around in the backyard. About an hour into the party, Andy called me outside while he was grilling. He pointed to the tree. It was a cardinal. Singing loudly for all to hear. I snapped a picture, not really knowing if the beautiful bird would be in focus because of the tears that covered my eyes. You see, God hadn't forgotten us. He knew that party would be a difficult one for our family. And He didn't forget to show up. That is the God that has cared for us so deeply over the past year. That is the God of Life.
That cardinal has been a beautiful presence in our backyard this week. Jack has named him "Ben," mostly because whenever he hears or sees him, he calls out, "Hey, BEN!" Yeah. I know. I cry when I hear that, too.
The next milestone we'll be celebrating is Ben's Heaven Day, the 13th. Still so hard to believe he's been in heaven for almost a full year. In some ways, it feels like just yesterday. Sometimes, it feels like he never left. I see his face in my kid's. His piercing dimples. His amazing eye lashes. All four of our kids share the same hair and eye color. Megan's gestures and speech sound eerily similar to Ben's. It is both sad and beautiful. I think that the last calendar year will always feel surreal, but I think its events will always carry with it a sort of haze. A blur.
We will be celebrating Ben's First Heaven Day Anniversary with a family celebration. We're having a butterfly release that night. A beautiful way to remember our nature-loving boy while also reminding us of the new life we have in Christ. Just as a caterpillar changes into a butterfly, its original body dying to itself in order to enter its next stage of life, our physical bodies will someday expire and we will receive our new healthy bodies in heaven. It's a beautiful metaphor and I think a very fitting memorial for our special boy.
I know that some of you want to do something that day or leading up to it. To honor his memory. To be a blessing to my extended family and those that loved Ben. I know many of your kids prayed for us, for Ben, during those tumultuous few months and his story intertwined with yours. Perhaps your kids are aware of this anniversary quickly approaching. If you are interested in honoring Ben's memory, I do have a few suggestions.
- Buy a nice camera. Or dust off the one in your closet.
- Take photography lessons. Or watch instructional videos on YouTube.
- Put pictures up on your walls. In frames, in canvases. In every room.
- Plan a fun family outing. Make new memories. Take pictures.
- Look through old albums and videos. Laugh. Reminisce.
Seriously. These are the best ways I can think of to honor the life of a boy who loved Jesus and his family. Who was not timid about the future and was brave in the face of uncertainty. Who never passed up an opportunity to run through the dirt, get his hands on a frog or splash his face with a hose. I was there. And I am so glad that I didn't have a cheap camera to capture those moments. Because those pictures are now among my greatest earthly treasures. And they are proudly plastered all over our walls. We can honor Ben's memory by LIVING. And living WELL. Do something to enjoy the presence of those you've been gifted to grow alongside. To appreciate what makes them unique. To bask in their flaws. Because in this life, we only get one shot to live. And it's best not to waste it worrying, planning or hoping.
To steal a line from Shawshank Redemption's Andy Dufresne, "Get busy livin', or get busy dyin'."
Life is too precious. Too short. We might as well enjoy it to the fullest, until the day that God calls us Home.
After I update you all on the butterfly release, I don't have any plans for continuing to write on this blog. I will continue to write when I can. To speak at women's groups on occasion. To be proactive in caring for my family as we continue to navigate this road ahead. To encourage and be encouraged by the women at my church. I'm not physically going anywhere. But I feel like the time has come for me to close this particular chapter, writing under Ben's name, the blog we began to keep family and friends updated on his medical status. We have appreciated everyone's prayers more than you know. Your well-wishes. Your kind words and cards. We have physically felt the presence of your prayers in our lives. And we are so so grateful. I'll be writing on my old blog, a platform I created when the boys were little to encourage other moms in their parenting journey. You're welcome to follow me there; I'll give the URL once I've had an opportunity to update it (it's been a while!) I will write through that venue when I have both the opportunity and inspiration.
The Sauer family is ready to live. JOIN US!