The Ben Sauer story: heartache and hope from a blogging mom amid the unthinkable

No family should ever have to watch their child die, let alone in barely 3 months from a rare and aggressive form of brain cancer. Ben Sauer celebrated his 5th birthday with his twin brother just 8 days before he passed away. One can’t help but think about how different it must have been for the family just one year prior, on the 4th birthday, when not a hint of sickness was in little Ben. Or even just a few months prior, in the family Christmas photo, when the cancer still had not yet reared it’s ugly head.

Furthermore, no one should have to go through such a tragedy alone. In years past it would typically be close relatives, and maybe the local community, that would rally and help shoulder the grief and heart ache. But in today’s blogging and social media era, thousands have followed the heart-wrenching story of little Ben Sauer while his mom, Mindy, has blogged every grief-stricken detail, while at the same time maintaining an eternal focus filled with life-giving hope.

Photo Credit: Blue4Ben Facebook Page

Mindy and Ben Sauer. Photo Credit: Blue4Ben Facebook Page

While the Facebook page in support of Ben has over 70K ‘likes’ and counting, and countless thousands of visitors have cried their way through Mindy’s blog, I’m sure she would go back to anonymity just to have her son back.

Everyone grieves differently. Mindy Sauer has chosen to grieve and share her family’s trials through her writing – very public writing that has allowed thousands to grieve with her.

But what’s more, Andy and Mindy Sauer are avid Christ-followers. Their faith is evident through all of Mindy’s posts as she came to terms with Ben’s diagnosis, as his sickness progressed, and now his death. Through it all, Mindy reiterates on her blog the mantra “God has been very good to us.” They believe death in this world is not the end. Their hope is in what comes next. It is this sincere faith that has gotten them to this point, and it is this faith that will help them pick of the pieces.

It is often asked, why does God allow tragedy? And a further refrain that is often added, why does He especially allow it to happen to those who believe in and love Him — as if we deserve a pass from trials and heartache over our unbelieving neighbor. To which I’ve heard the response, who is better prepared to deal with tragedy and death than those of us who place our hope in something greater than this life?

The Sauers have been brave examples of this point, as Mindy explained in a blog post just over 24 hours after Ben breathed his last breath in this world —

You see, heaven makes all the difference. Because God conquered death, He paved the way for us to be with Him forever. In eternity. Because we serve a Living God who loves us even more than we can imagine, we can have confidence in His ability to care for our loved ones after they take their last breath. Because of heaven, I know that I will be reunited with my Benjamin again someday. And so will [his brother] Jack, and the rest of us that love Jesus.

Wise words from a strong woman.

As Christians, many of us “talk the talk” of how we will deal with tragedy when it comes. But we fear ever having to “walk the walk” as the Sauer family has done.

However, my thoughts and prayers also gravitate toward Andy Sauer — the father who has been dealing with this tragedy right alongside his wife and the rest of the young family. Perhaps because I’m a dad of 2 young boys, it is the parts of the story where Mindy writes about him that impact me the most.

Photo Credit: Pray for Ben Sauer

Andy Sauer with Ben on March 28. Photo Credit: Pray for Ben Sauer

Mindy has written that of her twin boys, Ben always favored her while his brother Jack favored Andy. But in Ben’s final weeks, he wanted his dad by his side every waking moment. In fact, so much so that he would grow agitated if Andy wasn’t nearby. As a father I can’t imagine watching my young son die, but like Andy, I would hope to be by his side every moment he needed me. Andy Sauer is an example to all of us fathers, and while I dread ever needing it, I pray I’d have Andy’s strength. A dad who by simply being there was able to comfort his young son in his dying days.

The grassroots movement in support of Ben is called Blue4Ben. I wore blue to work today in memory of Ben. I never met Ben, and have never met The Sauer family. I’m not sure exactly why, but this story has impacted me, and I’ve felt led to share it with others.

Typically, when tragic stories like this one pass before me in my social media feeds, I scroll past them as fast as humanly possible. I’m not good at dealing with such tragedy, and because I don’t ever want to think about bad stuff happening to me or my family, dealing with another family’s grief is not my thing.

But the story of Ben Sauer caught my eye just a few days ago, and I found myself going back and reading about it from the beginning — crying with every post. Now, I’m sharing his story with my readers, and perhaps some are reading about it for the first time. The Internet has definitely changed how we are able to share in other people’s grief — people whose stories we never would have heard about just a few years ago — and become stronger and more caring in the process.

I can’t imagine what The Sauer Family is going through privately now that Ben has passed, but their public display of strength and faith has been a blessing to many, like me, who don’t even know them. I am thinking and praying for them, and grieving right alongside of them. But I also share in the same hope that heaven, through Jesus, changes everything.