Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Holiday Cards

I’ve spent several hours the last few nights scouring the internet, looking for some kind of card that might be appropriate for us to send for the holidays this year. I suppose that we could just bag the idea of cards altogether this year (after all, we’re already skipping Christmas Day), but if anything, what we’ve been through this year makes us want to try even harder to stay connected with our friends and family. And while painful and sad, the process of putting together a holiday card that serves as both a memorial for Hudson and a symbol of our hope for the future is somehow healing, too.

And yet, how to do that? As with Hudson’s birthday, I am so utterly unprepared for dealing with a task that is usually so filled with joy when I am filled with so much sorrow. I pored over card after card, looking into the happy faces of beautiful babies and children, peering into the lives of cheerful intact families, weeping again for all that we have lost, for all that we will never have again. Because as long as we live, in every photo that ever appears on one of our holiday greetings, our sweet girl will be missing. And I just don’t understand how that is possible. It’s excruciating.

There’s a radio station in town that started last week playing all Christmas music all the time. In any year before this one, I would have been all about it, cranking that station up and singing along with every tune. Last week, as I was flipping through the stations, I caught one refrain of Nat King Cole singing “The Christmas Song” and began to weep. I turned it off right away. Now when I change the channels, I skip quickly through that one. I’ve been wondering if I’ll be able to listen to any of my beloved Christmas music this year—I have a ridiculous collection of Christmas CDs (again, a passion I inherited from my mom, who probably had more than a hundred). The one album I thought I might actually want to listen to was Sarah McLachlan’s Wintersong. Ed gave it to me the year before Hudson was born, and I put it on a playlist with other Christmas music to listen to while in labor. Sarah’s non-traditional version of The First Noel/Mary Mary got me through one the most intense moments of my labor with Hudson—it was almost two years ago now, but I remember it like it was yesterday.  It is obviously a Christian song, but to me, in Sarah’s hands, it is a beautiful, thundering ballad that also pays tribute to the power of a mother and the amazing experience of giving birth to a new life.  (You’ll have to forgive this terrible video collage—if you want to listen to the song, close your eyes.)

Like much of her work, the Wintersong album seems to capture my mood, and this life, perfectly—mourning and hope all rolled into one.

On a break from the holiday card project tonight, I drove up to the store to grab some milk. I flipped through the stations, pausing on the all-Christmas station long enough to hear Sarah’s voice singing a song from Wintersong. It wasn’t The First Noel (somehow I doubt her version would ever make it on a mainstream radio station), but for tonight, it didn’t matter. Hudson was just helping me remember—sorrow, but also hope.

Sorrow, but also hope.


  1. I love Sarah, too. Your last comment reminds me of a quote from Shawshank Redemption:

    "hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies"

    In a season when we celebrate peace and joy, I wish you both. In abundance.

  2. Mandy,
    You could create your own card if you have the strength. Both Snapfish and Shutterfly (and I'm sure many others) make it very easy. Then you could have your card be exactly what you want to convey. Just a thought.

    Keep hanging on...
    Thinking of you,

  3. The Winter after my son was stillborn I sent out New Year's cards instead of Christmas cards. I hand stamped them with butterflies, a common symbol of perinatal loss and mourning, but one that also symbolized hope and growth. I couldn't cope with Santa Claus or Madonna and child, and the New Year's option seemed a better fit for acknowledging the past and the future.

  4. This isn't the right place to post this, but I couldn't find an email address for you. I hope you don't mind me leaving it as a comment.

    I saw this on the GAP website and thought it deserved to be on the penguin's Christmas list:

    Thninking of y'all frequently in this Christmas season.

  5. I don't usually reply to comments (since there is not an easy way to do so one by one on Blogspot), but I wanted to thank you all for these suggestions.

    Elizabeth, thank you for showing me that onesie-- it is precious. I will add a link to email me-- the same thing has happened to me many times where I've wanted to email a blog author a personal message and didn't have a way to do it.

    And Lindsey, that is one of my very favorite quotes-- I actually posted it on FB about 2 weeks after Hudson died. I think of it all the time.

    Thank you all.

  6. I thought too that perhaps you could create your own card. I kind of wish I were a stationary designer, but when I read this post I thought of a simple letterpress card with a turtle on a beach heading toward the ocean with the north star in the sky. Anyway, I think there is a way to include Hudson in a holiday card, to honor both her and your grief.

  7. A friend of mine lost her cousin unexpectedly in September of 2008 -- he was just 18. For Christmas that year his family made a custom card, the front cover of which was the collage of photos of T they had displayed at his memorial service. Inside was one photo of him doing one of his favorite things (surfing), with a message about how much they loved him, and then a photo of him and his sister, with a message from the family thanking everyone for their support and wishing them love for the holidays.

    I didn't know T, but I saw the card when my friend received one, and I remember commenting to her what a beautiful memorial it made.

    Thinking of you and Ed and the Penguin.

  8. Mandy, I am thinking about you this day before Thanksgiving. I hope you can feel Hudson's presence with you always, but especially during this holiday, when her absence is especially difficult.

  9. Hi Mandy,

    Thinking of you. I found your blog a week or so back and left one comment. Again, my personal story is much less painful, heartbreaking than yours. With that in mind, I hope you don't mind me sharing that I was given an idea for Thanksgiving. It was to create a gratitude list (this I have done several times) .... but this one is different. It's a list of things that I'm grateful for that happened as a DIRECT RESULT of the "tragedy" in my life. I put that word in quotes because I don't know if mine really qualifies for a tragedy. I just want you to know that I'm thinking of you!

    I ended up listing over 8o things that I was grateful for that have happened in the last 8 months, not inspite of what happened, but as a direct result of what happened.

    I hope this makes sense.

    Nothing compares to losing a child, especially a little little beautiful baby.... I just want you to know your story has touched my heart.

    With love, Andrea (raising peanut)

  10. Christmas is tough, and Christmas music is the hardest of all. Matt was all about the music---about this time of year he would go hunting for our box of Christmas CDs, and although we still occasionally listened to his beloved Les Mis, Phantom and Dave Matthews,for the most part it was all-out Christmas music until he departed for Winterlight the day after. This was also about the time we really got cranked up on our Christmas orders for our cookie bakery (we were Baker's Dozen Gourmet Cookies, website and all). Ah, Christmas...usually SO eagerly anticipated... hopefully we'll find the joy again one day...