Friday, May 16, 2014

The Same Side of Eternity

Yesterday, for the first time, I took all three kids to the zoo. It was just the three boys and me. You might could say I brought the zoo to the zoo. We have tackled all kinds of public places and museums together before, but never the zoo. We took it slowly but surely, navigating with the two older boys in the double BOB stroller and I wore baby Van all day in the Hop Tye carrier. As ever, I over-planned and came prepared for nearly all possible needs, most of which didn't arise but I'd rather be safe than sorry. The boys and I hit a playground, the Pachyderm building, the Galapagos tortoises, had a picnic lunch by the water, saw the rhinos and zebras, fed the giraffes, and topped off the day with time at the Children's Zoo petting the goats and soaking themselves in the manmade creek and splashpad. It was definitely a filled day.

At one point before lunch, George mentioned that he needed to go potty. Just before getting ourselves situated with our picnic, then, we stopped at a restroom where everyone but Silas got their needs taken care of. Multiple times Silas insisted that he did not need to go. Of course, ten minutes later as Lunchables were open, oranges were peeled, and drinks were poured, Silas stated, “Mommy, I need to go pee pee now. Actually I need to go shoo shoo.”

Now, normally this would be an incident that would irritate me to no end. The Jenny from a week ago would have scolded Silas in an elevated tone and made my displeasure repeatedly known to my little boy, and perhaps to George and Van as well. But I didn't yesterday.

The reason is Ben.

Ben, you see, was a little boy who captured the hearts of his community of Buffalo, New York, and hearts across the nation, when he was diagnosed with a rare, aggressive brain tumor. His mother Mindy chronicled his battle with cancer, which only began in January of this year, in her blog. I didn't mean to become emotionally invested in Ben's story, but I happened upon his image, alongside the words “Pray for Ben Sauer,” in my Facebook newsfeed late Monday night. His handsome, arresting brown eyes and crooked, sheepish smile hooked me the very instant I saw him. When I look at Ben, I also see Silas. My fingers clicked on the link while my brain screamed, “NO!” and I sobbed as I read his background story and the “Eleventh Hour” post. Ben, I could clearly tell, was going to die soon.

Ben has an identical twin brother, a little sister, and another baby sister due in September. He lived a totally normal life until four months before his fifth birthday, at which point he began experiencing crippling headaches. The diagnosis was made fairly swiftly, his mom's writing was made public, and people fell in love with a lovable little boy who never had a fighting chance. He passed away this Tuesday night, eight days after his fifth birthday. His aunt Marissa said it best in her post with these words: “God has him. God has us. He's just holding us on different ends of eternity.”

I have been stumbling through my last three days in grief for Ben. The mom in me screams, “What if this was Silas?” What if my little boy continues life normally for six more months and then the unimaginable strikes, and we lose our little boy next May, just after he turns five? What if the years ahead that I flippantly take for granted are never actually written in the books? What if I'm wasting precious, precious time with my kids by being a tired mom who yells too much?

 Fast forward to the zoo bathroom. By the time I finished feeding Van and we quickly downed half of our lunch, we sped it back to the bathroom and it became apparent that Silas needed clean underwear. That was okay; I had that with me. I wish I could have been a stranger looking at the four of us crowded within that disabled person's stall. I would have seen a mom sitting on the bathroom floor holding a wiggling, happy, spitting-up baby who repeatedly took out his pacifier and attempted to throw it on the bathroom floor (eventually succeeding, so pacifier no more until it was washed). I would have seen a mischievous two-year-old boy scaling the bathroom walls, touching everything possible, and unrolling the toilet paper. I would have seen a preschooler sitting on the potty with no pants, underwear, or shoes, wearing leg-warmers worn on his arms and a fedora perched on his head, planning the afternoon out loud and refusing to actually make a shoo-shoo on the potty. I would have seen the automatic toilet flushing many times as the little boy sat on it, which caused his eyes to widen with mild fear. The boy kept saying with uneasy laughter to his mother, “This potty keeps giving my bottom a bath.” If I was a stranger seeing this scene, I might laugh. After all, what's the big deal? So what if we had to make an extra trip to the bathroom? Change pants? Wash a pacifier? Wash everyone's hands twice? Wrestle a baby in one hand and wipe a dirty bottom with the other? Who cares?

It's still fine---It's still fun---It's still LIFE.

Mindy Sauer would have welcomed this as the worst or most hectic part of her day, no doubt. The least I can do is welcome it too. No more shouting, just patiently teaching the lessons that need to be learned, cutting us all more slack and giving up the absurd notion that my everyday life is sometimes 'hard.'

Ben's story undoubtedly breaks the hearts of people everywhere, but I have an inkling that for those of us who are moms to four-year-old boys with earnest, deep-brown eyes and sheepish grins, it perhaps hits a little closer to home. I ache for Ben and for his family, particularly for the mom who is now separated from her son, and the identical twin whose other half has been torn away by cancer. I'm so lucky to have three healthy boys. No one can guarantee us a tomorrow, but for today, my three kids and I are on the same side of eternity. It's time to stop wasting time. With Ben as my guiding reminder, my time with my kids will be treated like the precious, fleeing gift that it truly is.


  1. Amazing, as always. Love you and your beautiful heart.