2013 was a year of incredible sadness and loss for my family. It started out bad and ended worse. So here I am in 2014, and there are two stories receiving a huge amount of attention on Facebook and elsewhere. In both cases, I read a snippet and concluded that I was not emotionally equipped to handle them. But sometimes there are so many people talking and commenting that curiosity gets the better of you... you know? So I started following both stories....
The first story I tackled was about a 26 year old woman from the Syracuse area, married to one of our men in active military service, who developed a rare pregnancy-induced cancer while carrying twin daughters. The cancer was not discovered until she had given birth prematurely at 30 weeks. It's not clear at this point what I found more remarkable. Was it the devotion of her friends to create and lovingly update this Facebook page on an almost daily basis, as this woman fought for survival? Or was it the fact that in 95% of patients with this type of cancer, the babies are the ones that the cancer kills - not the mothers? This woman lost her life almost two weeks ago. The babies are cancer free.
The second story was, of course, that of Ben Sauer. I really had made up my mind to ignore this. Too close to home, I thought. Blue for Ben, Red for Tanner. It was too much. Then one day, my niece re-posted a story written by a Dad about what it's like to bury a child. Ok, I thought, if she can read this stuff, I can read it too. One blog entry and I was totally drawn in. This mother had a way of just putting it out there in its raw form - everything from Ben's initial symptoms to the diagnosis and treatment, their devastation when the treatment didn't work, and finally, his passing two days ago - that was just riveting and beautiful. I feel like I know this family, and why are the most gifted children always the ones that this happens to? As they say on social media - SMH! (shake my head). Ben's mother Mindy is so courageous, not just because of what she is going through, but because of her willingness to share the story with the world. As spoken by someone with a blog that I am not willing to share with everyone around me.
So, I've read these stories, cried for these people, and I realize that the thing that connects them is faith in God. Pure, unadulterated faith. In both stories, there is no doubt that the deceased is now with our Creator. How else can you go on after something like this happens? What do atheists do or think at times like this? I just can't wrap my arms around the idea that there is really nothing for them to believe in or draw strength from in times like this in their lives. I know that right now, Jenna Hinman has greeted Ben Sauer with open arms in heaven, and she is telling him - "Look and see how much our families and friends love us. Some day, before we know it, they will be here with us to share our eternal happiness."
I'm not sorry I read these stories. Although I'm sad, I am also grateful for the inspiration that Jenna's and Ben's loved ones have given me. I am grateful for the loved ones who are still with me. No matter what happens, I have to believe that God has a plan and everything happens for a reason (two cliches for the price of one. Ha! - But both so true). Tomorrow night has been declared "Light Up the Night for Ben Sauer" on Facebook. The idea is to leave your front porch light on all night in his honor. I wondered briefly what this would look like from outer space. As quickly as I asked myself the question, the answer came back to me. It will look like love.