Handwritten cards are how I express love during the holidays

Personalized messages that take weeks to do show gratitude and goodwill

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by Halsey Blocher |

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A few years ago, I rolled into the local disability center, as I often did at the time, for a day of exercise, crafting, and volunteer work. But because it was Christmas, I’d brought something extra. My nurse carried a stack of cards I’d made for staff members, and as we strolled through the building, she handed me one envelope at a time as I told her who we’d be delivering to next.

During lunch, one person approached our table and declared in astonishment, “You wrote all of those cards by hand!” Her surprise was understandable considering that such a physical activity is taxing for me and many others living with SMA. Even so, I hadn’t been dissuaded from spending several weeks filling a dozen cards with personalized messages of gratitude and goodwill for people who’d blessed me with their time, talents, and friendship.

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Where it all began

I was raised in a family that taught me to appreciate the value of thoughtful letters, cards, and thank-you notes. It’s a practice I’ve seen demonstrated by men and women of multiple generations, but I especially associate the gesture with two of my late great-grandmothers. One wrote many cherished letters to loved ones, and the other sent me birthday and holiday cards decorated with stickers every year until she was no longer able to.

The latter of these two remarkable women is a big part of why I took up sending Christmas cards. As she aged, I wanted to stay connected. She didn’t use social media or texting, and she struggled to hear on the phone, even without factoring in my soft voice. So I started mailing her holiday cards, as she’d always done for me.

And once I started, I couldn’t stop. I had plenty of Christmas cheer to go around, and this provided an opportunity to share it. It’d be challenging for me, but I was willing to commit to such an endeavor once a year. Now, my Christmas card list has grown to include family, friends, colleagues, and healthcare providers across the country.

Making the effort is worthwhile

Before I took Evrysdi (risdiplam), my arm strength and stamina had deteriorated to the point that I could write only one or two cards a day. Often, I struggled to simply lift or grip the pen. That’s why it took weeks to complete a relatively small number of cards. My writing speed during those final few years before I received SMA treatment gave a new definition to the term “snail mail.”

The amount of effort that went into any handmade gift or token made them that much more special, though. It still does. My mom will tell you that one of her most treasured gifts from me is a handwritten cookbook that I spent at least five years creating as a Christmas surprise. The dedication to copying each recipe in cheerful colors over that long period makes the pages and food more meaningful.

Thankfully, Evrysdi has helped restore some of my abilities and energy so that writing isn’t quite so tiresome anymore. With everything laid out for me within my reach, I can now manage to write, stuff, stamp, and address a few more cards in a day as long as I listen to my body’s cues, honor its need for breaks, and ask for help. But I’ve found that I actually prefer taking it slowly because it’s more comfortable and less demanding.

Even with the boost in strength, Christmas preparations are still challenging. Card creation, decorating, gift wrapping, and baking all take time, teamwork, patience, and creativity. Some level of fatigue is inevitable, but it’s worth it because of the joy these activities bring for me and those they’re shared with.

While handwriting is my preferred greeting card medium, it’s important to note that it isn’t the only way to thoughtfully communicate. With a physical disability, it’s not always an option, so many of us take advantage of modern technology instead. When I lack the time or energy required to write cards throughout the year, I use online services like Postable, which will print and mail them for me. As long as the effort and sentiment are genuine, even something as simple as a text can still convey that we care.

An investment of love

Christmas cards have become one of my favorite ways to celebrate the holiday season. They’re an opportunity for me to pray blessings over my loved ones and share my hopes for their happiness. It’s one way that I can invest in people who care about me and show my gratitude for the gift of a relationship with them. And like my great-grandmother, I’ll continue doing so for as long as I’m able because making people feel loved, appreciated, and seen is exactly the kind of Christmas spirit that I want to share.

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.


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