It was late February 2002, and my sister's two-year wait to adopt a baby from China had finally come to an end. Then, a few weeks before we were scheduled to depart to get her daughter, we were shattered by the news that our mother's brain cancer had returned -- for the fourth time.

As Mom's condition worsened, my sister and I struggled with what to do. We didn't want to leave our father and brother to cope alone. But if we didn't go, Lissa would lose her daughter and be back on the waiting list. Mom settled it. "Grab the baby and run," she said.

Of course, between the Chinese and U.S. paperwork, nobody "grabs a baby and runs." We were gone for 13 days, with Mom spiraling downward into a coma. Enter my friend Jan, someone who understood losing a mother. Telling the ICU staff that she was my mom's sister, she went regularly to sit with Mom while we were away. She would hold Mom's hand and tell her that we'd be home soon -- she just had to hold on a bit longer.

Mom was still with us when we returned and was able to meet her granddaughter, and I have always believed that Jan's gift of herself had a lot to do with it. If Jan called me from Alaska, at 3 in the morning, and needed me to post bail for a lot of money, in person -- I would be on the next plane, no questions asked.

Rebecca Redmiles-McCaffrey, Fairfax

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