Making the Cut

I wrote this post originally 2 years ago. The first Christmas without my mother. It has never actually run on this site before. I am sharing it today, because the words remain true even 2 years later.

Christmas cards are both the highlight of my year and the bane of my existence. I absolutely love receiving them and honestly look forward for the eleven months leading up to the arrival of certain cards because I know that they will make me smile. I clear off doors worth of “art” work by my children so that we can display our cards, and I always feel sad when the second week of January hits because we must finally take them down. There is something so heartwarming about seeing all the cards with photos of smiling children and knowing, from experience, of all the creativity and hard work that people (mothers) put into making sure the cards best represent their families.

Because once the advent of photo cards happened, simply getting the right Christmas card photo(s) is a chore, or has been in years past for me. The outtakes could probably be a card in and of themselves, but honestly, who wants that displayed, every year, on their mantle? I always imagine during the home photo session that if I were on a hidden camera reality show, the following clip would be the scene they would use right before they brought some sort of expert to coach me through how to really be a loving parent.

Nothing says holiday joy like:

“Stand over here kids.”

“Now, hug your sister. No, I said HUG your sister … don’t crush your sister!”

“Do you children even want presents this year?”

“I have Santa’s phone number, and I am not afraid to call him and cancel Christmas right now if you don’t do what I say!”

“Stop crying RIGHT.THIS.MINUTE. And smile, This is all Mommy asks of you once a year, and you can’t even help me here?”

“Mommy is sorry girls, mommy is really sorry … I am not calling Santa …can you both just smile and then you can have popsicles?”

And on and on we go until in the end I consider doing what I did last year, which was using a card of crying Santa pictures.


But this year I got really smart and turned the whole thing over to my amazing photographer friend. She perfectly captured exactly who my girls are at just this moment – and all I had to do was buy the dresses and show up. That, my friends, is the ticket to Christmas magic!














But the accompanying stress of Christmas card season was not over, as I was then on to the next phase of the Christmas card process, which is always fraught with challenge for me … the annual cutting of the list.

Because I love Christmas cards, I never want to remove anyone from my list. Ever. If I had my way, I would exchange cards with every person we have ever known. However, time and money prevent this from being possible. Also, as life would have it, my list seems to grow each year as the girls get older, and we fortunately add some new friends to our lives, which makes the cutting even more necessary. So, I pulled out the list and began to make my way through it, finding that some names were easy to add to the delete columns, while others were a little harder, but still necessary.

But then the unexpected happened. Even though I should have been prepared. I came to my mother’s name. Ouch. You see, in the final couple of years before she died, my mother was in a nursing home, which meant that I had to send her card there. That alone had been a bit of a transition for me to make, but now I came to the point where I had to permanently remove her name from the list. It seemed pathetic to leave it on there because obviously this reminder would probably be no less painful next year, but it also felt so strange to just backspace over it, as though it had not existed at all.

The same backspace action that I gave to the neighbor who moved or the classmate of Abby’s from last year who went to a different school. Except in this case, it was my mother. It was my mother who would not be receiving a Christmas card; and my mother, in fact, who would not be seeing the professional photos of my children for the very first time. She would have LOVED these photos, would have wanted to talk about them for hours, definitely would have wanted to purchase every single one, despite not having a place to put them. In fact, honestly, it probably would have annoyed me, but she would have loved them. And it makes me so sad that she won’t see the card with the photos, and just as sad that she is off the list, just like that. There is no button for “regrettably delete.” It was all the same to my computer, but not all the same to me.

So, here we are, right? It is the season of hope, of love, of joy, of peace and of longing, I suppose. But I can’t help but think about how many people in creating their own cards, the ones that I have hanging on my door and the ones I will never see, went through the same process of cutting and culling their list; and might have had the sadness and pain that I did when I culled mine.

These cards, for me anyway, serve as a reminder that we are all in this together, that once a year we all remember each other and take the time to say so, even to those who can’t get a card anymore.




Making the Cut — 100 Comments

  1. I completely understand. It’s okay to feel numb about the loss of someone especially a parent. When my Daddy died I was 19, I thought I could never get better…up until 25ish, thought no way to go through life without him, straighten up & it got easier, not better- never better, but easier. I pray for you & yours this holiday. XO.

    • Thank you Amber. It does get easier in some ways as more time passes and then harder in other ways. Hugs to you friend.

  2. Oh how I wish I couldn’t relate to this but, of course, I can. I’m crying because it’s all those little things that take someone away from you when you least expect it. There’s the initial awful shock of losing your mom (or anyone) but then there’s all these little horrible pieces that you have to delete one by one. That’s the real pain and I feel for you my friend. Every year and everyday. I get it. I wish you so much love this holiday. Hug and kiss those beautiful girls and hang on tight. I know I do!

    • As I was re-reading this post before putting it up, I actually thought of you Allie. I am sending you love this holiday season, my friend.

  3. It was the year I had to cross my grandmother’s name off right after I had Lily that made me feel a bit as you described. Can’t even imagine my mother, but do see my parents are getting older. So god help me when I get to that point, because I lean on my mom more then not many days to be quite honest. However, just wanted to also say, we had the same card last year and took one look and totally remembered picking that card out, too. Merry Christmas to both of you and your families, too 🙂

    • Merry Christmas Janine. Thank you for this comment. It really means a lot to me. And I love that card so much…still one of my favorites.

  4. I haven’t sent cards in 2 years now and I miss sending them – and like you, I am an all inclusive card sender. Once you are on my list, you never come off my list. I too wish there was a “regrettably delete” button on the computer or my phone for that matter. It took me 2 years to delete my step dad’s number from my phone. I just couldn’t do it. And my dad’s number is still on there. For now. Hugs my friend.

    • It is hard, right Ilene? Seems like one more step in making the process permanent. And feels cold in a way. I still have emails from my mom in my inbox…can’t bear to delete them yet. Hugs to you friend.

  5. This is so beautiful. We are all in this together. We haven’t sent cards in two or three years, but I remember going through that list and watching it dwindle and grow. Expand and contract. As life moves through stages and people move in and out of our direct circles – the ones right in front of us. One day I’m going to go crazy and do cards, and not only that, I’m not going to cut the list. I’m going to make Cassidy insane (and both of us broke) and send hundreds upon hundreds of cards.
    I’ve always wanted to do that.

    • Love that idea Tamara! What fun it would be, because then you could get so many in return! I definitely feel like the number of cards we receive has dwindled over the years, too. Kind of makes me sad.

  6. Thank you for writing this beautiful post that, unfortunately, many of us can relate to. I just know that your mom was watching over the photo session and maybe even helping the photographer and your kids get just the right shot. Wishing you peace and comfort during the holidays.

  7. Ashley this is just gorgeous! Thank you for this, because it’s this time of the year, when my mom and I are going crazy getting ready for the holiday and she is driving me batty that I need to remember how lucky I am that she is still here to annoy me! Sending love to you and your family this holiday. xo

    • You are welcome Kathy. I know exactly what you mean…between you and me, if my mom were still alive she would be driving me crazy…but sometimes I miss that, too.

  8. Oh, lady. Those smaller, everyday reminders (an address jotted down) are the toughest I think. On a positive note, your girls are absolutely precious! You look like you’ve got a lot of love around you!

    • I do think the small things are the hardest. I was going through recipes yesterday and found one with her handwriting on it. Caught me off guard completely. But as you said, I am surrounded by love. 🙂

  9. What a beautifully written post – sometimes it’s those small moments that catch us… I had a voicemail from my grandmother on my phone for years after she pased away.

  10. The worst part about the Christmas list is having to delete those who are no longer with us. I’ve cut list list down quite a bit and am trying to focus more on actually seeing the people on my list. This is a nice reminder to cherish those who are with you right now. Merry Christmas to both of you!

  11. I feel you on this one. I have lost such a big chunk of my family that for the first time ever this year I didn’t load up the tree with all of the ornaments because I just didn’t want to go there. And some that I did I put around the back of the tree. I’ve cut my list because some paths in life have changed while others involved not a card but a wreath on a grave 🙁 Hugs to you from me!

  12. Loved this the first time, and it still saddens me now. Yes, your mom would have loved these photos. I miss her so much. Love you!!

  13. So beautifully said, Ashley. I can’t even imagine losing someone that close to me. It’s crazy how traditions are 99% awesome, until you hit these few times where it can sting a bit.

  14. A very poignant column Ashley. I was thinking about Dana a couple of days ago, not cards but when I was wrapping presents and getting your box together.

    • She loved wrapping so much. I think of her a lot when I do it, too. Mostly how she would probably cry at my lack of ribbon and bows! 😉

  15. It. Is. Just. So. Very. Difficult.
    Maybe that’s why I no longer send holiday cards.
    Good on you for continuing to send them. You’re like a friend of mine from Ontario. He insists – despite his wife’s encouragement to-perhaps-stop-doing- it-as-no-one-else-still-does – on carefully selecting cards and firing them off to all their pals. I love that.
    Keep doing it!

    • I can understand that totally Kelly. Sometimes it is easier to skip the cards…I almost did it this year, but I just can’t quit them. I am definitely like your friend.

  16. This is such a sweet column, Ashley. I know how hard it is. It took me several years to take Dana’s name off my email list. I just wasn’t ready for the finality of it. I loved the pictures on that card, the last one of the girls on the bridge is my favorite.

  17. I haven’t sent cards for a few years, but I wish there was a regrettably delete option to remove loved ones from lists, too. You’re so right, some deletes are not the same. The photos are beautiful – I keep saying I am going to do photo cards one year. Maybe next year…

  18. Love your Christmas cards and believe your Mom is smiling down on you and your girls always. This is an especially emotional time for me as it is the first Christmas without my Mom. Love having both boys home for the holidays! Merry Christmas!

  19. I first read this post this morning, and then I told my husband all about it at lunch today. I couldn’t tell him the story without crying. All of our parents are still living, but they’re getting to the age that we could get a call any day. It breaks my heart to even think about it. I love your sentiment that this is the time of year to remember all of those we love, even those who aren’t physically with us anymore but who will forever be in our hearts.

    • Oh Nicole, you are just the sweetest EVER. Thank you for this beautiful comment and for sharing it with your hubby. It is hard as we all get older to know that our parents will not be around forever.

  20. Thank you so much for opening your heart and sharing this story. I cannot imagine losing a parent, but mine are getting older and I have lost a lot of aunts and uncles and know one day this is going to be a reality as well. It’s hard, but the one thing to remember is that they are going to the Kingdom of God and we will all be there to see each other again one day.

  21. This time of year can be wonderful, but it can also serve as a reminder of those loved ones who are no longer with us. So bittersweet. I can only imagine what it must have been like to go through that list and click delete. Big hugs!

  22. Hugs, sweetie. I’m not there yet, but I know I will be one day…and it will suck. But friends like YOU will be there to comfort me.

    I’m glad you shared and put this out there. You’re not alone. You ARE NOT ALONE.


  23. I remember this feeling. You described it well, and I love Christmas cards, but hate the gut punch of crossing people off the list. My dad died five years ago, and he’s still a contact in my phone. Hugs, friend, and those pictures are great!

  24. I absolutely understand. I miss my father soooo much around this time of year. I try to be happy with past Christmas memories, and be thankful that I have those memories. But, sometimes, they only serve to remind me of our loss. Big hugs to you! And Merry Christmas ladies!

  25. OH – I’m so sorry!! I’m another one of those people who just keeps adding to the Christmas card list – I’m sure that some of the people who get our cards would prefer to be taken off!!!
    This year is the first year that I didn’t address one to my Mema and Poppa. Actually Mema passed away a couple years ago but I just lost my Poppa in August – like you, I had to delete a name that I absolutely did not want to.

    • Thank you Kim. It is so hard to lose someone, and the holidays are a reminder of that for sure. We have a lot of people on our card list as well, and I am sure there are a few who wish we would let it go! 😉

  26. This is beautifully said, and heartbreaking. I had to delete my husband’s mother this year for the same reason. I actually kept her on the list at first, but went back, realizing that next year will be the same. Hugs to you, and Merry Christmas! The photoshoot turned out awesome!!!

  27. Aw! I love sending and receiving Christmas cards. Sadly, it seems we get fewer and fewer each year. Crossing people off the list is always so hard. I cannot imagine crossing off my mom. Hugs to you friend and Merry Christmas wishes!

    • We have gotten the fewest we have ever received this year, too Lisa. It is strange, but I honestly think fewer people send them. Makes me sad.

  28. Oh, I know how you feel! It is so expensive and I have so much guilt about not sending them to everyone. It’s always so interesting to me that those of us with young families are always worrying about stuff, and all of our parents, grandparents, and elders in general try and show an example of remembering what this season is all about. You touch many lives and give others hope and laughter in so many ways, and in my humble opinion, that is more than enough. It doesn’t have to come from a card that gets tossed out. Thanks for sharing positivity with so many!

  29. So so sweet. This can be such a hard time of year for so many reason… missing loved ones being a huge one. We lost my father 7 years ago and I wouldn’t even wash his pillow until 5 or 6 years after because I didn’t want to wash away “him” as weird as that sounds. You are not alone.

    • I totally understand Amanda. I remember when my sister and I found my mom’s glasses. Still makes me cry thinking about it, actually. Hugs to you.

  30. I can’t imagine how difficult it must be to lose a parent. And to know that she would so enjoy those pictures and that she won’t be able to. I’m so, so sorry. Thinking of you. Hugs!

  31. I have only received one card this year everything else was online sad I don’t get that anymore times have changed. Love the card you have so pretty. Merry Christmas to you all

  32. Oh, Ashley, how beautiful. I can’t imagine losing my mother and having to deal with that pain at Christmas time. From having to remove her from invites and cell phones and such. I’m sorry for your loss.

    But you’ve also made me realize that these Christmas cards are important. It is too late for this year but I hope that I can keep this post in my heart and mind and get some cards out next year. Because now I’m thinking that it’s sadder to not have her on a list at all.

    Merry Christmas, dear friend!

  33. I barely got my cards out in time this year, but it was especially hard not writing one for my mother in law who adored the cards more than anyone. She kept the pictures of the boys up all year round, she really couldn’t get enough. It is SO tough around this time of year when all the emphasis is on family and the family that you want to be here the most is no longer present physically. But she is always present in your heart. Merry Christmas friends.

    • My mom was exactly the same way Nellie. She kept them up all the time, because she loved the pictures so much. I am sending you hugs this holiday season.

  34. I always think about you and so many others who are having to constantly feel the waves of grief hit once again, around this time.

    How brutally painful, to see her name… and realize the depth of what it means to ‘cut’ her off the list.

    I can’t quite imagine. So I pray for you and the others- as that’s all I can do. You are heavy on my heart, sweet friend.

    That photo card from last year is breathtaking… I just couldn’t stop staring at the joy and beauty of your girls. And I’m glad you shard the funny one in the beginning, because I LMAO at that one – classic!

    I adore you… may your embrace your precious loved ones who are here, and treasure the memories of your beloved mom.

    • Thank you so much sweet Chris. Another holiday has passed, and it definitely had some bittersweet moments. Mostly when I think about the fact that my mom would have loved some of the memories from my children this year. But, I know in my heart she can “see” them and that brings me peace. 🙂

  35. Thank you so much for sharing this piece and your personal feelings with us. I can read from the posts that a lot of readers can relate to exactly what you are expressing.

    • Thank you for reading my friend. It is sad to realize looking through the comments just how many people are in a similar boat.

  36. ashley, such beautiful words. even though we may have to delete rows on a spreadsheet, those people will always be in our hearts, especially during the holidays. it’s a wonderful time to honor and remember them.

  37. No cards for me this year. It’s just too soon. But I cannot imagine when the day comes that I have to mail something and it will just say Mom and not Mom and Dad. Thanks for sharing this and I send you all the love in the world, my friend. All of it. xo

    • It is really hard Andrea. It feels so unnatural the first few times you do it…and then, maybe even more sadly, it feels natural after a while. Sending you love and hugs, too.

  38. Such a beautifully written post. I am so sorry. I’ve been thinking so much of the inevitability of this for us all, doesn’t make it any easier. Wishing your family a beautiful new year.

  39. About your Mom: My heart broke reading this. I cannot imagine and I’m so sorry you had to confront this.

    About the cards: I don’t take my holiday cards down, we have a wall that we put them on and we leave them up all year. There is almost no one who comes into our house who doesn’t stop and look at them and ask about the people in the cards. It happened as a fluke (probably the year I had 3 kids under 2!!) but for years now it’s intentional and I love it. I love sending cards and getting them – although I feel bad saying it because this is the first year in probably 20 that I didn’t send them. I’m already planning next years – I’m on it!

    Hope you both had fabulous holidays with your beautiful families!

    • I am in LOVE with this idea Stephanie!! I have them displayed on my doors in my kitchen, and I am totally not taking them down thanks to this awesome comment! 🙂

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