Mindy Sauer says how she feels changes moment by moment. She has accepted the fact that you can live with both grief and joy – sometimes even at the same time. Nearly three years ago, she lost her precious son, Ben. The boy who inspired a community with his courage, his fight.
Thousands were captivated by Mindy’s blog posts. They were raw, honest and inspiring. Mindy hasn’t written a blog in a while, but says she is working on it. Right now, her focus is family. Her husband, Andy and their children. It’s a tough road to navigate, but they do it together. Over the past few days, I’ve written about Mindy and her life since Ben. I’ve received a great deal of feedback from people who say they are grateful to her for doing this interview with me, grateful to have an update on the Sauer Family. The truth is – Ben Sauer had a profound impact on many people in this community. Myself included. I do think about Ben when my kids are being fussy and suddenly, I’m not annoyed by it. Or when I don’t quite want to take them outside to play in the muddy yard – I do it. I’m a better mom because I’ve met people like Mindy. I’ve met a few people like Mindy. And I am forever grateful for that.
Here is our final part to the interview.
Life today with Mindy, Andy and the four kids, including two babies she’s had in the past three years – since, Ben’s death.
Like many other households, it’s a daily grind for the Sauer family in their Clarence Center home. Only they are not like other families. They are a part of a club they never wanted to be in, never asked to be a part of. Mindy says someday she’ll find out the greater reason for the loss of her little boy – but for now, she is laser-focused on her family.
It’s been an extremely difficult three years. For Mindy and Andy. And for little Jack, the boy who eulogized his twin brother at his memorial service. The boy who is optimistic and faith-filled. The boy who – at times, says Mindy, picks up his mother and carries her through the difficult times, “Jack is going to be eight in May. And most times, man, we are just so proud of him. He’s an optimist and talks about his brother being in heaven as well as memories of him in a very matter-of-fact way that you’d hardly realize that his twin was no longer living. He adores his sisters and they just eat up his attention.”
For Jack, life without Ben is a tragedy beyond words,”He’s a twin – his birth certificate will always announce that – and he spent almost five years learning with, playing with, and sparring with a boy who is now in heaven. And that’s tough. Andy feels a lot of pressure from Jack to fill that void. They play a lot of sports together, Andy taught him chess, they wrestle and Jack plans frequent sneak-attacks on him when he returns from work. But it never feels like enough. Andy has to be there for the girls, too, and Jack is mad that they can’t just keep playing his games. Our firstborn also has an insatiable appetite for play and if given the choice, he would play for twelve straight hours every single day.” Jack is wise beyond his years and is an amazing big brother.
And then there’s Megan. A sweet little girl set to start school in the fall. “Megan is going to be five next month and we talk daily about how she wants to decorate and what she wants to do for her Ariel birthday party. Holidays and birthdays are a big deal to this girl, who looks for every opportunity to celebrate something, and has just blossomed as a pre-writer and artist this year. She gets her high heels muddy playing outside and only has a few long skirts that aren’t dirty at the bottom. She’s teaching herself gymnastics and would give anything for preschool to be seven days a week. She is beyond excited about going to kindergarten in the fall and man, she is so ready.”
Mindy was pregnant with Katie when Ben died. The thought of caring for your unborn child and your dying child at the same time is heartbreaking, unthinkable. For Mindy – it was the promise of something bigger that got her through, “Faith tells me that my suffering is not in vain. Faith tells me that heaven is real and that I will see my son again someday. That someday, we will all be reunited again. Without that promise, I don’t think I would have had the strength to care for my growing baby in-utero while also watching my son die. I wouldn’t have much reason to get out of bed each morning.”
Mindy continues, “And I certainly wouldn’t have had any reason to talk to others about their pain, encourage them through their grief, or continue to train my kids to grow in wisdom with the Lord. I mean, what would the point be? Faith is the hope of something more. A greater story. A greater purpose. A greater meaning. And without that, Ben’s story would have just been another depressing story on the news. But with faith, his life GAVE life to thousands.” And Mindy adds – what a gift Katie is, “Kate is 2.5 and potty trained herself this past December. Determined and passionate, I think the best way to describe her is by giving this example: she will go to the fridge to get herself a snack and then also grab one for each of her siblings. Very thoughtful. But if they don’t want it, she hits them. HA! There’s a right way and a wrong way to do things. And she tries her very best to keep up with her bigger siblings. She’s also very compassionate with her baby sister Allison as well as her two first cousins who were born just a few months from her sister. Whenever someone comes over, she tells them, “Dis my baby sisser,” or “I not a baby, I a big sisser.” She’s just beginning to be understood by other people and her phrases keep us snickering to ourselves on a daily basis. She is especially fond of Jack (and has been since birth,) and will often go to him for comfort when she’s feeling especially sad or frustrated. I just melt watching Jack embrace her with both hands, her head coming up to his belly button.”
Allison is the baby of the family. The little girl who looked like big-brother Ben as a newborn – which Mindy says was a gift, “Allison is 8.5 months old, born this past June, and it’s the first out of five babies that people say actually resemble ME and not their daddy. And wow, what a good baby. So easy-going and happy. I had been expecting her to be born with angel kisses (those light spots near her nose that eventually fade,) since all of my other kids have had them. But she doesn’t have any. I suppose the Lord made up for it, though, in making her a spitting image of Benjamin as a baby. And what a gift that is in of itself. She’s rolling all over the place and is just starting to pull herself up on all fours. She is well-loved by her siblings and she just about bounces off my leg when she sees her daddy come home from work. I am so grateful to be home and witness each beautifully challenging moment with them.
And then there is Mindy’s other half. The husband she adores. The husband – she says gives her strength – the person she looks to more than anyone. They were determined to get through their grief together, even if that meant giving each other some space. Mindy says it wasn’t easy – isn’t easy, “We made it work. But it took work. We kept talking. And we still talk. “It’s me and you, kid,” he tells me, reminding me that we need to care for each other first before we can be there to care for our kids. We let the kids see us talk, discuss, disagree, hug and kiss. We want them to be comforted by the fact that we are committed to each other. We praise each other in front of and behind our backs and encourage our kids to speak well of the opposite parent. These are things we do intentionally. Because love isn’t always a feeling. It’s a choice. Thankfully, people like Andy make it easy.”
For the Sauer family, this new normal is not what they would have wanted. It’s not something anyone wants. It’s a tight-rope walking adventure that is filled with ups and downs. Mindy is figuring out how to walk this road. One of the most important things she’s learned is that you have to accept the things you can not change,”Grief is kinda like an unwanted extended family member that permanently finds residence in your home. If given the choice, you wouldn’t have wanted them to live with you. But there is no other option. So rather than try and dump them on someone else or avoid them completely, you learn to live with them. You find ways to include them in your celebrations, acknowledging the memories they have and the baggage they carry, and yet still allowing yourself to find moments of joy when they threaten to overshadow every moment of your day. Grief isn’t going away. So you might as well learn to peacefully coexist.”
And for all of those who went Blue4Ben –
Mindy Sauer saw it. She embraced it. She appreciated it. She felt it. Now, three years later, the one thing she wants most of all – is to have her little Ben’s legacy be one of hope and faith.
Thank you to Mindy for her time and words.
Our Previous stories with Mindy
- Paddle with a Purpose – The Dragon Boat Festival Gets Set to Sail Once Again - June 4, 2022
- The world-renowned Shen Yun Performing Arts returns to Shea’s on Friday and Saturday, June 10-11, 2022. - June 1, 2022
- Totally Buffalo Festival Set for Memorial Weekend at Riverworks – and the FERRIS WHEEL IS OPEN!!!! - May 27, 2022