Birthdays, angel interventions, and Dan Vasc’s take on ‘Amazing Grace’

Helen Baldwin avatar

by Helen Baldwin |

Share this article:

Share article via email

I celebrated a birthday recently, kicking off the final year of my 60s in memorable fashion.

As I got ready at home to join our grandson, James, for a Mother’s Day breakfast in his class at school, I opened the bathroom door. Sprawled out over the entire path was Maple, our elderly, overweight boxer.

“Hop up, Maple!” Like a newborn calf, she struggled to get her legs to cooperate. I thought she might be nearing success when her legs got tangled up, and she collapsed sideways, hitting her head on the fridge. After a sickening thud, the family goofball slumped down, out for the count. Her paws quivered briefly before stopping.

“Oh, bad word,” as my mother-in-law used to say.

Recommended Reading

An illustration for the American Academy of Neurology's annual meeting shows beakers with the letters A, A, and N on them.

AAN 2023: Type 0 SMA twins alive 2 years after Zolgensma treatment

With all our pets, I’ve braced for the inevitable when necessary. In general, our pets have led long, happy lives. Maple will be 12 in a few months; I feared her long, happy life was ending.

Thankfully, with some massaging and quiet encouragement, she opened her eyes, and I slowly and carefully eased her up. Dazed, our old gal made her way to her bed in the living room. I had to pick up James for school but called twice for a report from Randy, my husband, before the special breakfast. He said Maple ate peanut butter with a pain pill reserved for emergencies. She was sleeping.

Following breakfast with maple syrup pancakes, the children and guests moseyed back to the classroom for a performance of “Skinnamarink.” My eyes welled up. That had been a favorite song for my kindergarteners at Brockman School in Columbia, South Carolina, and also for our own children, Matthew and Katie. Years later, I found it online for our toddler grandchildren, Clara and James.

James had missed the entire previous week of school due to illness, so his placement in the back row of the performance was understandable and welcomed. I trusted he couldn’t see my watery eyes as I reminisced and pondered how the heck the years had passed so quickly.

Nothing like music to unleash emotions.

Meanwhile, Maple recuperated.

Something positive about SMA

Our third baby, Jeffrey, was born in 1997, three days after my birthday. Diagnosed with SMA at 2 months old, he snagged his wings less than four months later. I expect good things on May 18 and have not been disappointed.

Halsey Blocher, my adviser as a columnist, recently questioned whether SMA “is our friend, enemy, or something else.” I’ll address this in a future column, but for now, suffice it to say that I’ve preferred focusing on the positives. There are many.

There’s nothing like a life (or death) assignment to test both mettle and faith, and SMA most assuredly did that. It enabled me to witness the power of prayer. I honed in on angel intervention and learned about signs. I met some extraordinary folks and new friends. And I learned that we’re tougher than we thought.

The grim prognosis for our baby boy inspired my mother to record original, soothing musical compositions for him. Mom’s music provided gentle, easy therapy for grief.

A mystery poster on my Facebook timeline

As I zoomed through my Facebook timeline recently, a brief post caught my eye. The poster, whose name I didn’t recognize (usually indicating a connection to SMA), included a link to what looked at first glance like a music video, along with a note to someone tagged in the post: “He’s [so-and-so’s] nephew!” I opened the link and moved it straight to the dock on my computer for when I had time to investigate. Unfortunately, I didn’t think to also open the poster’s Facebook page.

Every Facebook post I had saved in my own incompetent way vanished during an automatic operating system upgrade. The name of the poster remains a mystery.

It wasn’t a bad word moment only because I had no idea yet what the link held.

Music from my mother and an unlikely source

I grew up with a musical genius of a mother, fortunate to have been exposed to quality music. I typically didn’t seek out heavy rock ‘n’ roll or country music. Mom and I played on two pianos/keyboards over the years, favoring Broadway show tunes, standards, and Streisand, branching out as we wanted.

Fast forward to that mysterious Facebook link I finally opened. It was Dan Vasc, a Brazilian heavy metal singer, covering “Amazing Grace.”


Skeptical, I donned my headphones and watched his video. Overwhelmed, I played it again. And again. Randy followed suit on the TV. This passionate rendition frees different pent-up emotions with each view. I can no longer listen and watch without tearing up.

Vasc’s overall extraordinary musicality defies description. Additionally, the lyrics of this hymn, familiar around the world, seem particularly reassuring today:

“Through many dangers, toils, and snares/ I have already come.

’Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far,/ And grace will lead me home.”

A heavy metal singer delivering perfect medicine for the soul? Amazing.

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.

The post Birthdays, angel interventions, and Dan Vasc’s take on ‘Amazing Grace’ appeared first on SMA News Today.