Alice: How long is forever?
White Rabbit: Sometimes, just one second.
– Lewis Carroll
It was 10:33 on October 22, 2013 when my world ended.
Ushered into a special waiting room at the Cleveland Clinic by a nurse with her head held low, my father, brother and sister-in-law knew before the team of doctors even entered the room that our worst nightmare had just come true.
The days following were a blur. Phone calls, arrangements, trips to the airport to pick up family flying in. Standing at the calling hours we stood in a row, stunned.
One by one they came in. Friends and relatives, packing the room for hours. These people who were touched by my mom’s contribution to each and everyone of their lives. Each had a story about her kindness, her gentle way. As they hugged me, shedding tears and apologizing for all that we had lost, smiles crossed so many faces as they shared this one consistent message, “Heather, I want you to know that I kept each and every one of your mother’s Christmas cards.”
Ten, then twenty, then over one hundred people, I learned, had been amassing my mother’s homemade Christmas cards since she had been sending them in 1972, the year she and my father were married.
It was sweet, yet not surprising to me. As long as I can remember, my mother would sit at her desk for hours upon end, beginning every year in early October, in order to craft each and every one of her around 125 annual Christmas cards. Each was created with extreme artistry, patience and an eye for detail beyond my ability to comprehend. Each was made by way of a different medium, including origami, bent wire, stamp, embossing, watercolor, hand stitching. She made her own paper and hand lettered each and every envelope.
Anything less than perfection was inexcusable for my mom; many cards ended up in the trash. We’d always joke about her perfectionism, get on her about how the ones with color outside the lines were good enough. She’d always shake her head. She wanted each of those cards to be just right for all of her friends and family who she loved so very much.
My mom created a book of all of her 39 cards, one for my brother, and one for me. What you see here is just a small sampling of her work. This year we’ll be assembling the last Christmas card she created with the bits and pieces she’d begun to work on early, like always. We imagine her looking down, gasping at our messiness as type is misaligned and rubber cement leaves tracings of gummy on paper.
It’s almost incomprehensible to me that this Christmas will go on without her. That life is going on without her. That there is a world without my mother, my best friend, who touched so many lives with a spirit reflected in these cards: beautiful, meticulous and full of love.
All cards created by Nancy J. Sakai, beloved mother of Heather