Some Special Signs Appear at the Perfect Time

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by Helen Baldwin |

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yo-yoing | SMA News Today | main graphic for column titled "We're Not in Kansas Anymore," by Helen Baldwin, depicting a blue wave offset by green nature scenes

The topics in this column tie in somehow to the death of our baby Jeffrey, as that is our connection to SMA. I’d like this column to provide even a spark of hope to others finding themselves in devastating circumstances. Consequently, I’ve purposely tried to gravitate toward a sense of optimism.

My last column, however, deviated from the usual tempo. One particular day’s news allowed nothing else.

The day in question started out well enough. While I was running an early morning errand, a leaf spiraled downward, round and round, in front of my car. The anniversary of Jeffrey’s death was less than a week away. I took the spinning leaf as a happy sign that he was right with me.

I was wrong about the “happy” part.

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My husband, Randy, and I would learn about an hour later that a beekeeper friend had lost his granddaughter and great-grandson, who was the same age as our grandson, in a tragic automobile accident. The thought of everything the family was going through was crushing. The image of a pint-size casket finished it off.

Diagnosed with SMA at 2 months old in 1997, our Jeffrey snagged his wings less than four months later.

Signifying the rock bottom moment of our brief SMA assignment, the memory of the tiny white casket has remained tucked far away. It can’t be tucked far enough, though. The surreal image of Jeffrey’s delicate “angel box” suddenly barged back into prominence.


Nov. 4, the anniversary of the day our sweet baby flew free, came with high expectations for some positive signs, and I wasn’t disappointed. For once, I was thankful for the mounds of dirty dishes, because the first sign appeared outside our kitchen window in the form of a leaf. Like the leaf in front of my car on that awful Saturday morning, this one also was spiraling. Unlike the other leaf, however, this one spun round and round and up toward heaven.

Additionally, our pond, which is also outside our kitchen window, served as a playground for a raft of ducks. They were having such a grand time that they didn’t even care that our fine dogs, Honey and Maple, were nosing around by the pond. The dogs ignored the ducks and vice versa, so I enjoyed the antics of our feathered visitors while I cleaned.


On Nov. 5, the anniversary of the day between Jeffrey’s death and his funeral, I spied a single raspberry on our bushes. It didn’t miraculously appear at that time. The miracle is that I had overlooked it for who knows how long, even though it’s right by where I usually open the car door.

signs | SMA News Today | A single raspberry hangs from the plant long after the North Carolina region's first freeze of the year

A lone raspberry lingers despite a recent freeze, celebrating our late son, Jeffrey. (Photo by Helen Baldwin)

The nearby forsythia, which typically makes a vibrant commotion only in the spring, was also blooming again. Both the blooms and the raspberry seemed to thrive despite a recent freeze.

signs | SMA News Today | Yellow forsythia blooms also survived the freeze

Forsythia blooms survive the freeze also to celebrate Jeffrey. (Photo by Helen Baldwin)


On a roll with the signs — the ones I noticed, anyway — I yearned for another one on Nov. 6, the day of Jeffrey’s official send-off 24 years ago. And I got it.

I drove up the road to our little rental cabin that frosty morning. As I reached the cabin, I spied what appeared to be a “teen” deer peeking at me from just across the fence in the backyard. Deer are usually too skittish to hang around, bolting nervously at the first hint of intrusion. Not this one.

This one curiously watched me as I got out of the car, walked up the front steps, retrieved my phone out of my pocket, and snapped several pictures. He didn’t budge.

signs | SMA News Today | A deer stands gazing across the gravel road from the deck of Helen's cabin

A curious deer is content to stay put on the anniversary of Jeffrey’s funeral. (Photo by Helen Baldwin)

The deer was still watching several minutes later. I wanted to sit down and test his staring endurance, but I was running late and walked out of his sight to open the cabin door. When I walked back outside, the deer had moved, but only a couple feet. He was still watching.


Wrapping up the anniversary of an excruciating memory in our Jeffrey journey was a spectacular sunset. Gorgeous sunsets abound in this beautiful rural area in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, but the trees that graciously block the wild winter winds at our house also hide most of the long-range scenery. Randy and I were headed down the road, though, at precisely the perfect time.

signs | SMA News Today | A stunning fiery red sky emerges from behind a mountain range as the sun sets in North Carolina

Randy and I catch a stunning sunset on the anniversary of Jeffrey’s funeral. (Photo by Helen Baldwin)


Other duties continue during column time. After getting up to start the washer again, I stopped in the kitchen to reheat the tea water.

I detected something reddish out of the corner of my eye.

It was another surprise: the beginning blooms of the Christmas (or Thanksgiving!) cactus on the kitchen window sill. The plant has produced flower buds every year around this time, but there was no sign of them the other day when I watered it.

signs | SMA News Today | The year's first buds appear on Helen's Christmas cactus plant

Surprise flower buds coincide with a column about signs appearing around the anniversary of Jeffrey’s death. (Photo by Helen Baldwin)

It may not be time for the turkey just yet, but I’m giving plenty of thanks for these boosts to my soul.


Note: SMA News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of SMA News Today, or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to spinal muscular atrophy.

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