When Billy Jack and Sara Brawner found out they were pregnant in November 2013, they were overjoyed.
Having previously endured a miscarriage, they found every moment of their pregnancy to be nothing short of a miracle.
Then, last summer, when Sara was 34 weeks pregnant with a little girl to be named Willa Rose, the unthinkable happened: the baby’s heart stopped beating.
“It was a Thursday, I remember,” Sara says in a newly released video that documents the couple’s loss. “I felt her kick around 9 or 10 in the morning, and I didn’t feel her kick for the rest of the day.”
our Willa girl has been dead for as many days as she was alive, and, for whatever reason, that’s really tough—especially for Sara. with much joy, we honor willa’s life and give thanks for the days we had with her and for the moments we got to hold her. and, also with much joy, i honor sara. i’m thankful and i’m made better having gotten to stand by and watch her over the past 68 weeks. she carried and grew Willa with such grace. she gave birth to Willa with such grace. and she grieves Willa’s death with such grace. where it’d make sense to be selfish, she gives. where it’d make sense to be fearful, she has faith. where it’d make sense to be bitter, she rejoices. aaaaand where it’d make sense to take credit for being a grade-A badass, she points to Jesus—quietly and humbly pointing, always. // #willarosebrawner
The Brawners discovered that Willa Rose had passed, and Sara, who also goes by SK, delivered their daughter. They spent the seven hours they had with Willa Rose holding her, allowing friends and family to hold her, taking pictures and celebrating her short life.
A short while later, they hosted a funeral for Willa Rose.
“An unborn baby is a baby, and that is a life,” Sara says in the video produced by husband-and-wife cinematography duo The McKellars. “They have worth and value. Losing a child is so terrible and so hard.”
Sara and Billy Jack, or BJ, met at a small college in Colorado. After getting married and moving to Texas three years ago, they began dreaming of the family they would build.
“We’ve learned of thorns in roses. We’ve watched you learn to know them, too. And we pray your fear melts in the fragrance. And we thank God for you.” —A. Osenga // we’ll be celebrating our sweet Willa girl tomorrow at 6:30p at holly springs cemetery in martin’s mill. we’d love for anyone who can make it to come share this time with us. and please bring roses. // County Road 4403 & FM 1653 Ben Wheeler, TX 75754 United States A photo posted by @billyjackbrawner3 on
When Sara found out she was expecting, they moved out of their downtown loft and began construction on a suburban home away from the city, nestled in the woods and filled with stylized flea market finds—designed and ready for the baby they hoped to bring home soon.
They had planned for Sara to stay home with the baby while BJ took up work building homes with his father.
While the death of Willa is a grief they never could have imagined, the Brawners have found hope and joy in their faith. Christians, they believe Willa has caused a “sweetness” and a “unity” to blossom in their marriage.
“You’d think it would be a really hard memory,” BJ says. “But it was all truly sweet. We loved those days.”
“[Sara] grieves Willa’s death with such grace,” BJ added in a photo posted to Instagram.
we were getting pumped to share the news of baby Brawner no.4 but the sonogram shows that he/she isn’t growing. it’s easy for us to feel sorry for ourselves and to be resentful and to even feel numb; so our hope is that God would give us grace to mourn well the loss of this precious life, with hope and peace. // maybe the angriest i’ve ever been is a couple nights ago when sk was in a lot of pain and her doctor had us go the ER, fearing it might be ectopic (thankfully, it wasn’t). on our drive there, she got two phone calls from two different social workers asking us if we’d be willing to foster two different sets of siblings who’d been abused/neglected. since becoming foster parents, we daily (literally daily) get those kinda calls. these past couple months have been heavy because we’re constantly seeing how broken our world is. it’s a heavy thing to tuck someone else’s kid into bed in Willa’s room each night. because our world is broken, Willa is dead. because our world is broken, our little buddy isn’t living with his mom and dad. because we are broken, we struggle with anger and fear and selfishness and we tend towards thinking that we’re stronger and more important than we really are. but seeing the brokenness, in the world and in ourselves, makes us more ready and more hopeful for what’s to come, for when all things will be made new. and so we say come, Lord Jesus. and until then give us grace to believe you’ll come. (btw 1: sk is a baller. btw 2: it feels difficult to communicate this without looking like the victim or looking like the hero. we are neither. just like you, we are broken pieces that make up this broken world. just like you, we’re longing for things to be made right)
This past weekend, the family celebrated “Willa Day.” They gathered with family and friends to eat, sing and “read words that point back to the goodness of God in the midst of heartache.”
In honor of Willa, the couple also raised money to cover medical costs for a friend’s child, who was born with a rare genetic disease.
Since losing Willa Rose, BJ and Sara have conceived and lost two more babies. The couple, along with their dog Lloyd, are currently fostering a little boy.
They hope to one day adopt.