When I was a little girl with three brothers, I desperately wanted a little sister. Every night for about three years, I prayed for a sister, and eventually, when I was 7, my first sister came along. I always adored her and felt protective towards her, and as she grew up we also became the best of friends. I was delighted when she married someone I am also extremely fond of, and we remain as close as ever.
Two years ago today, my sister went into hospital for keyhole surgery to remove her gall bladder. That evening, I phoned up her house. My father answered the phone, and it was only afterwards that it occurred to me that this was odd, as he hadn't been intending to be there. If it crossed my mind at all, I suppose I just assumed that he hadn't been able to resist a bit of time with my niece, then aged just under 13 months.
Having greeted my father, I cheerfully said, "Is my little sister all right?"
Then my world came crashing around my ears on hearing his reply: "No, I'm afraid she's not."
Over the course of the next few days, we learnt what had happened. What we knew that night was that the operation had gone badly wrong, she was in intensive care, and the next 24 hours would be critical.
I spent most of the night praying the Rosary. I choked on the words, "now, and at the hour of our death" and pleaded with the Blessed Mother to intercede for my sister and with God not to let her die. I said how much we all loved her, how she was needed by so many people, and although I also remembered to say, "Thy Will be done", I qualified that with, "But please let it be Your Will that she should live".
Two years later, my sister has a foot-long scar running down her abdomen, a hernia which bothers her sometimes, and she is still thinner and less strong than she was before the surgery. But she has not simply survived but, within 18 months of the surgery, given birth to a little sister for my niece. They now live just a few miles from me, and I see them regularly. In fact, later today she's bringing the children over to lunch, and I'm sure this anniversary will be on both our minds.
I thank God every day that she's still with us, and ask Him to continue to keep her safe in the future.