Clearing Out, Memories, and an Easter Wish

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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

Ahhh. Spring glory in the North Carolina mountains! Light snow covered the ground Sunday morning; by afternoon, honeybees bustled on yellow dandelion flowers, gathering precious pollen to feed bee babies in the hives.

memories | SMA News Today | a photo of two dogs lying in a doorway, faces turned to a lawn with some snow on it

Honey, left, and Maple, watching the snow melt Sunday from their sunny spot. (Photo by Helen Baldwin)


memories | SMA News Today | photo of two yellow flowers amid greenery; a bee sits on one of them

A honeybee wastes no time gathering pollen on Sunday with the snow out of the way. (Photo by Helen Baldwin)

Inside, I continued decluttering papers we’ve amassed over what looks like 100 years.

It’s not like I’ve been idle. For the past few years, I’ve enjoyed steady MomMom days with our grandchildren, Clara and James, who live down the road. I cared for James his first year and both of them when the pandemic pandemonium hit. At the end of summer, Clara gleefully entered kindergarten, and James returned to preschool.

After James’ classroom was closed twice for COVID-19 in the fall, however, the memory of his back-to-back croup hospitalizations led to the decision to keep him home for a while. MomMom days returned!

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Upon wrapping up duty upstairs these past few years, I then popped downstairs to check on my mother in the apartment designed specifically for her. Sometimes we just chatted; sometimes she needed assistance with something because of her dwindling vision.

Being able to do whatever I needed on both floors, so close to my own home, was a godsend.

Despite precautions, James tested positive for COVID-19 on the last day of January, and the cootie dominoes fell swiftly on the rest of the family. My mother was admitted to the hospital on Friday, Feb. 11, with COVID-19 herself. James returned to preschool the following Monday.

Unable to see Mom until the protocol shifted to palliative care, I kept myself occupied. I cleaned her apartment; tended to her cat, Mitty; contacted family and friends; tried to keep my own circus afloat during the day; and spent the nights in the apartment with Mitty.

As I was leaving the hospital room late one night, I heard Mom’s voice for what would be the last time. “What are you going to do with all your free time?” she inquired.

I smiled. “I don’t know.”

The last thing on my mind was free time, especially since I’d forgotten what it was like to have any. I wasn’t complaining.

Mom passed away, or in our parlance “hopped the train,” three days later. With James back in school, my free time has been stuffed. My husband, Randy, and I are getting used to having a cat again, and I’m supervising Mitty, Honey, and Maple as they adjust to one another. Filing paperwork, writing thank-you notes, resuming some school pickup duties, and tending to our small businesses keep me sufficiently distracted — most of the time.


In my quest to declutter, I pulled a dusty bag off the bottom shelf of my desk. Memories spilled out.

A yellowed 1982 “Herman” cartoon brought a smile and watery eyes. It showed an older couple with the caption “We’ll have to eat dinner out; the toaster’s broken.” Mom and I exchanged these ridiculous cartoons for many years.

Also in the bag were Lego instructions for elaborate sets our son Matthew assembled as a boy; they’d been retrieved recently from our storeroom. I also found a card with $2 addressed to our daughter, Katie, from a school friend.

And then I pulled out an old Christmas card from Karuna. Her baby, Leif, and our baby, Jeffrey, both with SMA, were about the same age, and we corresponded regularly. Jeffrey snagged his wings first; Leif followed suit a few months later.

Another card from Karuna hid in the treasure bag. Dated almost eight years after Jeffrey’s death, she wrote that she’d been unable to read my book “The Jeffrey Journey” and hoped I’d understand. (I did.)

Inspired to reconnect with Karuna, I tried Facebook but found nothing. I then Googled her name, and it popped up … in her obituary. She’d hopped her own train in late December.

My eyes welled up. Not only is Mom no longer here, it’s already been almost two months. How is that possible? And Karuna died? It’s almost the middle of April — and 2022! How could I have been out of high school 50 years? How has it been almost 25 years since Jeffrey was born and that I’ve known some of my closest friends? And when did I get so old?



It’s almost Easter, a time for hope, glory, and a reminder of miracles. As SMA unleashed its destructive nature and I knew our time with our sweet baby was drawing to a close, the impact of picturing Jesus nailed to the cross bolted to an even more intense level.

I can’t think of it without tears.

Distrust, disgust, and utter disbelief permeate the real world right now, but I’m still an optimist. My hope is that we honor Jesus’ ultimate sacrifice for us by utilizing our unique God-given gifts. Like the honeybee, let us be of service in some way to others.

Even in sad times, there is much to rejoice: memories of loved ones and appreciation for our unique gifts, for starters.

Happy Easter.

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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