I believe in miracles, but I believe they’re rare. I’ve just never thought one would happen to my family.

That’s what was going through my mind as I caught the 6 a.m. flight to Minneapolis. I was going to find out what was left of my mom after she suffered a ruptured brain aneurysm a few weeks ago. When I boarded the airplane, it had been 17 hours since the aneurysm, and she had already been helicoptered 200 miles from her home in rural Minnesota to a big urban hospital with a renowned neurological unit.

I recall two lingering thoughts: Did I know anyone who survived a ruptured brain aneurysm (answer: no), and will my mom still be my mom if she survives?

My dad and three sisters were already at the hospital, and the news became progressively worse: Mom’s aneurysm location threatened her eyesight, personality and motor coordination. Blood was seeping throughout her brain. Even if the procedure succeeded, she faced several weeks of dangerous stroke-like brain spasms, any one of which could make things even worse. And at 74, she wasn’t exactly a spring chicken.

The neurosurgeon didn’t say he was pessimistic, but lack of eye contact means the same thing in any language and no language at all. Tears were shed, and death and worse were contemplated.

Then a few hours later, the neurosurgeon was back. He was happy, almost giddy: Mom had a chance — if she survived — to remain herself.

As news spread, phone calls and letters and emails poured in, including one from an empathetic co-worker with similarly aged parents who also had been married more than 50 years. Also praying and concerned were mom’s church friends, classmates, garage-sale buddies, even people who knew mom only through us (check out caringbridge.org/visit/vonniewamre for their comments).

Through it all, during those rare times when mom was coherent, and despite all of the tubes punched into her body and all of the medications she was gulping, she never complained. And she never once talked about dying.

After three emotional weeks in the intensive care unit, and a few more days in a regular room, mom walked out of the hospital, for all practical purposes in the same condition she was in before any of this happened.

I was happy; we all were. But when I returned to Dallas, life intruded. While my mom was in the hospital, my co-worker’s mother was diagnosed with serious heart blockages, and she entered the hospital for a multiple bypass. A few days later, she died.

She also fought hard. She also faced long odds. She also believed she would recover. But she didn’t.

Two tough and good-hearted moms, two deadly medical problems, two prayer-filled families and friends, and two radically different outcomes: One mom survives, another mom dies.

I believe in miracles, but I believe they’re rare. I’ve just never thought one would happen to my family.

So why did it?

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