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Handmade Love

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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.

first christmas card | 1972

first christmas card | 1972

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.

origami | 2011

origami | 2011

embossing, handmade paper | 2002

embossing, handmade paper | 2002

wirebending | 2009

wirebending | 2009

cell painting | 1988

cell painting | 1988

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.

watercolor painting | 2000

watercolor painting | 2000

hand stitching | 2007

hand stitching | 2007

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.

| See all of her cards here |

mom

All cards created by Nancy J. Sakai, beloved mother of Heather

About the Author, Heather Sakai

Heather Sakai is the Community Manager here at Go Media. She helps designers prevent design disaster over at MockupEverything.com, where she serves as the Product Manager. She's proud to work for the most passionate creative agency in the universe, the best in Cleveland Web Design, custom branding and print.
Discover More by Heather Sakai

Discussion

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  • http://www.gomedia.us/ Jeff Finley

    Wow, your Mom was so talented! Those cards are awesome, and I’m sure she’ll be stoked to see what you guys come up with as she looks down on you all!

    • Heather Sakai

      Thank you Jeff! xo

  • http://skullface.me Jessica Paoli

    This post, your mother’s artistry & dedication & kindness, and your memories are all beautiful. Thank you so much for sharing, Heather!

    • Heather Sakai

      Thank you so much Jessica! Thanks for reading :)

  • Christina

    I remember so many of these cards that you posted. I miss her too.

    • Heather Sakai

      xo

  • Lauren Prebel

    So beautiful, Heather! Your Mom was amazingly talented. What a special tradition!

    • Heather Sakai

      Thank you Lauren! You’ve been such an amazing support to me. My mom is looking down thanking you. xo

  • Jessica

    I can’t even imagine how amazing your mom was. The few moments I spent with her, were special. I’m sobbing right now just thinking about the incredible loss you all have endured and how difficult it must have been to complete her cards this year. She is watching over all of you. I feel blessed to have spent a few “tiny” moments with her at the end. May your family find answers and peace this new year. Your family is never far from my thoughts!

    • Heather Sakai

      Thank you Jess! We love you!

  • Pam Darling

    A beautiful tribute, Heather. Your mother’s creativity, talent and gentleness flow through you.

    • Heather Sakai

      Thank you so much Pam xoxo!