Five years ago today, my sister went into hospital for a fairly routine operation. It was to be keyhole surgery, and the recovery time was going to be short. My mother was staying at my sister's house to look after my 13-month-old niece.
That evening, I dialled my sister's number. It was my father who answered the phone, and I didn't immediately twig that this was unusual - he was still working full-time at that time, and should have been back at home after a full day's work.
Cheerfully, I said, "Hello Daddy! Is my little sister all right?"
There was a pause, and then the bottom fell out of my world as he replied, "No, I'm afraid she's not." Replaying that conversation in my head, I can still feel the emptiness that settled in the pit of my stomach on hearing those words.
The surgery had gone disastrously wrong, and she was in intensive care. The next 24 hours would be critical. Nobody knew whether she would live, and if she did live, there was a strong chance that the massive blood loss could have caused brain damage. The damage couldn't be assessed until she woke up.
We were talking about that day last weekend. My father asked my sister when she first realised that something had gone horribly wrong, and she replied, "When I woke up and saw you there." Obviously she was quicker on the uptake than I had been!
My father talked about how after the initial shock was over, we started to worry about whether her brain had been damaged. My SIL, who married my youngest brother last year and was hearing many parts of this story for the first time, lightened the mood by asking, "And was it?"
Since those awful days, my sister has had two more children and she and her children have continued to bring love and happiness to the whole family. Today she is a week past her due date with another baby - tired, fed up, anxious for it to come out and meet the world.
What a marvellous celebration of life it would be if the baby arrived today, on this anniversary of the day we almost lost its mother.