In today's Roundup, you'll see an obituary notice for a little girl who died Aug. 23, just one day before her second birthday.
Whenever we see the face of such a young child looking up at us from the obituary page, it's only human to ask, "How did she die?"
But perhaps a better question is, "How did she live?"
Roundup readers were introduced to Cassandra Ward June 17, 2005, in a front-page story about Father's Day.
Cassandra was born with a rare chromosomal disorder called Trisomy 18, which is similar to, but more severe than Down syndrome. Only one in 20 babies with this disorder are born alive. Of those, only one in 10 live to be a year old.
Cassandra beat the odds for two years, and how she lived in those two years changed the lives of those around her forever.
"Cassandra touched my life in many ways," said her mother Wendy, who has spent countless hours at her baby's hospital bedside. "The love that radiated from her gave me a glimpse of the love that God has for me, and all of us. She taught me to enjoy each day as it comes and not pass the day fretting about the future. Even though she was small and fragile in body, her strength came from within. She taught me to endure to the end."
Cassandra was one of eight children who Wendy and her husband, Curtis, believe are on loan to the world for a short time.
"We're like stewards," said her father. "Our children are not our own. They're for our training. In caring for the lovable and needy Cassie, she straightened out our lives."
"The love that Cassandra gave me through her smile, being able to hold her, and just her being there are beyond words," said her oldest sister Rachel, 15.
"She had the sweetest spirit that made you look beyond her problems to see her as a precious child. I realized that all people with special needs are precious children," said sister Kady, 13.
"She was a very special person. Her never-ending smile taught me to be happy 24/7 -- in and out of trials. She opened my eyes to what goes on in peoples' lives with disabled family members or friends," said her brother, Jed, 12.
I knew Cassandra. And though she could not talk, she spoke to those who would listen.
Her eyes spoke of eternity. Her smile spoke of faith. She truly was a powerful force for good in this world and I am grateful for the way she lived.
For more information about Trisomy 18, visit www.trisomy.org.