children • education • parents
relationships • marriage • the elderly


Thoughts on My Daughter’s First Birthday

August 3, 2018 by

parents' hands with baby's hand
Sarah Ann’s tiny hand

Today is my daughter’s first birthday. This milestone leaves a mother with a feeling of accomplishment and awe as she marvels over all the achievements her child has made in just this one year of life: learning to eat and drink, smile, sit, crawl, stand, and finally walk. But my precious baby daughter never learned any of this; nor did our family watch her journey through this first year.

Our Sarah Ann was with us for only twenty minutes, one year ago, on this day. Those few minutes were so fleeting and so quiet; she never made a sound. We never heard her cry, never saw the color of her eyes – but we heard and saw and felt everything about her: her little heartbeat and her warm body, and we knew she lived. God needed her back and we could only kiss her, stroke her, love her with all our hearts. And then let her go.

The doctors had told us weeks before that our daughter wouldn’t live; she had a condition that was incompatible with life. So we thought we would be ready. But how can you ever be prepared for a moment when life and death come at the same time? We rejoiced. We wept. We loved.

Sarah Ann’s moments with us were brief, yet she stayed so close to us this last year. We always felt her spirit near us. Instead of witnessing her developmental milestones, our family has, each in our own way, been changed by Sarah Ann. When we see a brilliant sunset or admire a starry sky, my two oldest daughters remind me that their sister is up there looking down on us. At Easter, as I contemplated my daughter Sarah Ann at seven months, her sister Georgia imagined, with true four-year-old confidence, that her little sister would help roll the stone away from Jesus’ grave so he could rise. We talked through many questions of life and death, of eternity and heaven, of angels and protectors. “Will Sarah protect Daddy so he never crashes his truck?” “Will she protect me if a bear comes?” “Will she really be our special angel watching over us for always?”

This connection to the eternal – our daughter’s short life – changed our priorities.

There is so much we cannot fully understand but we do know she never felt far away. This year without her was hard – very hard at times – and yet at the same time we felt so blessed to have a link to eternity. This connection to the eternal changed our priorities; the things in life that used to seem so important don’t really matter as much – not after experiencing a true angel come into our lives. And many members of our community told us that Sarah Ann’s life and death did not leave them unaffected, either. The last few days leading up to our daughter’s birthday reinforced that. Cards and flowers and other tokens of love poured in from people who remember our loss.

As I look back at how each one of us has been changed by our Sarah Ann, I think that perhaps I’m beginning to understand her short life. Why did God ask us to give up our daughter? Maybe for God, Sarah Ann’s life is not measured by the twenty minutes she lived on this earth but rather, she was created for all eternity and she is truly with us and is looking down on us as we make our way through this life. That’s why we will celebrate and mark this important day – our daughter’s birthday – this year and for always.

Brenda Snavely lives in Platte Clove, a Bruderhof in the Catskill Mountains of New York, with her husband, Cedric, and their two children.


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  • Thank you for sharing your faith and your pain. It means a lot to me as I struggle to understand why my daughter who is so young is dying from cancer. I need to listen to the voice of Eternity. Thank you so much.

  • As mother Teressa said years ago'' I am not sure exactly what heaven will be like , but I know that when we die and it comes time for God to judge us, he will not ask '' How many good things have you done in your life? rather he will ask '' How much love did you put into what you did''. It is not importand how long we live in this world, but it is importand how we did good things and lived for others. Happy Birthday Sarah Ann.

  • Brenda and Cedric's story about Sarah Ann is so beautiful ♥️

    Vincent legg ( buddy)
  • We will never forget Sarah Ann. Her life was so powerful that it helped me find peace when I needed it most, because she was absolutely pure and innocent. She brought the spirit of Heaven down to the world.