When Real Life Is Scarier Than Ghosts, Goblins, and Monsters

Helen Baldwin avatar

by Helen Baldwin |

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My husband, Randy, is a beekeeper. I helped him with the bees until an unfortunate rash from a bee sting on my forehead landed me in the emergency room.

My dramatic predicament likely stemmed from the combination of the bee’s momentum as she zoomed to the pasture across the road, my being in her way, and my insistence on lugging a bag of mulch all the way to the porch before removing the stinger. As venom pulsated profusely through the barbed stinger, I probably should have prioritized removing it over moving the mulch.

The epinephrine jab in my leg in the ER worked as intended, but I don’t care to repeat the experience and have refrained from bee work for now.

Although I don’t really qualify as a beekeeper, Randy and I both contribute to our local beekeeping group, where we enjoy mingling with fellow “beeks.”

Randy sells honey on Saturdays as the weather permits. Numerous beekeepers who aren’t members of the bee group drop by the corner to chat, usually becoming fast friends.

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Our baby, Jeffrey, was diagnosed with SMA in the summer of 1997. Given no hope by the neurologist, we tried a variety of alternative treatments. Our final magic hat trick, with various machines in the office of a pulmonologist, didn’t go well. Our little guy snagged his wings on Nov. 4 of that year.

In 2006, we repeated the miracle search as my dad’s health declined rapidly. The full moon ruled that summer; our dog, Nellie, was working her way to the Rainbow Bridge, and after extended torrential rains, our old farmhouse required a new roof. The roofers’ pounding and stomping above us continued for what seemed like infinity. Despite the lack of air conditioning, we closed the windows and blinds, and covered the front door’s glass in a quest to minimize the stress on Nellie and our other two pets.


On Saturday mornings, I pick up breakfast biscuits for Randy and our neighbor, Tim, who graciously plowed the Papa garden at Dad’s request shortly before his death. He sells various veggies from his fields at the corner.

On my way to get the biscuits this past Saturday, a twirling leaf danced in front of the windshield, spinning round and round until it passed out of sight.

I smiled. Jeffrey’s angel day is coming up next week, so I took it as a “Hi, Mama!” sign.

It was actually more of an “Oh, Mama” foreboding.


The roof replaced that fateful summer of 2006 has leaked in our kitchen for a few months. We finally summoned the roofer, James, to take a look. We couldn’t connect for a short while, but I figured he was busy preparing folks’ roofs for winter. On Saturday morning, he called Randy, who was on the corner, as I set off on the biscuit run. He said he was on his way.

I dropped breakfast off at the corner and headed to our house to meet James. By then he’d already fixed the problem. He apologized for the scheduling difficulty, explaining that he’d been shorthanded. His helper’s stepdaughter and her 3-year-old son had been killed in a horrific automobile accident earlier in the week. I’d read about the accident, which left me sickened. Our grandson, James, is 3.

After roofer James left, I called Randy to report on the roof repair. He blurted, “Did you hear about the girl and her son who were killed in the accident?” Figuring James had explained his helper shortage when he stopped by the corner, I repeated what he’d relayed about the accident.

I was not prepared for what came next.

Jerry, a beekeeper friend, had come to the corner as he often did. He enjoys talking to Randy and does considerable bee business with him. He’s been to our house several times.

That’s not why he was there on Saturday.

At the precise time roofer James was telling me about his helper, Jerry was telling Randy that the young woman killed last Monday in the accident was his granddaughter. The little boy was his great-grandson. They’d had her funeral, and now he was on his way to his great-grandson’s.

Flashback to Nov. 6, 1997: Jeffrey’s service. I knew that the sight of Jeffrey’s tiny coffin would be our rock bottom, and I wasn’t wrong. Difficult memories include wanting to avoid the casket but being drawn to it, hearing words without comprehending, sobbing uncontrollably, hugging those in attendance afterward, seeing the hole in the ground on our mountain.

It all came back. Just in time for Jeffrey’s angel day.


The driver of the other car had been drinking. Jerry told Randy that two other close family members, including his son, had lost their lives to impaired drivers.

I can’t imagine looking at a tiny casket again. Halloween ghosts, goblins, and frightful monsters may spark a nightmare or two, but they’ll never hold a candle to that.



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.


Joe Pierce avatar

Joe Pierce

Very Interesting, thanks Helen!

Helen Baldwin avatar

Helen Baldwin

Thanks for checking, Joe! I hope the comment kink is somehow worked out :)


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