So this has been marinating for a while in the twisted corners of my cerebrum, and even though it isn’t fleshed out, I have the nagging feeling that it won’t be until I begin to write it out… (and even then… sigh…)

A few weeks ago, a friend sat down me with over coffee, concerned that I was depressed, down in the dumps, withdrawn, etc. I was surprised, as it wasn’t something I had necessarily been thinking about. “I don’t think so,” I answered. “You don’t think so?” was the response…

I have been feeling exhausted and trying to catch up on my sleep a lot, but I assumed that was just feeling a little extra rundown because of the added responsibilities (we’ve taken on the day-to-day running of Vidinha, the children’s home we have partnered with for the past few years, for the month of August to give Dora, the host mom, some much needed time away) of surrogate parenthood for 15 kids ages 14 months to 18 years… But as I sipped my caramel latte (and over the next few days) I realized that there was a bit of… je ne sais quoi present in my life.

We were talking about it in class last week – how around the holidays (generally Christmas) there is a deep and melancholic sadness that often springs forth. Hence the urge so many of us face – to cover it by consuming, buying, getting something new to distract and keep ourselves busy so we don’t have to think of the gaping holes in our bruised hearts…

Or in church a few weeks ago, when instead of a sermon, a visiting musician performed a suite of songs based on the story of the Prodigal Son – digging into the emotions behind the story – the feelings of loneliness, desperation, isolation, heartache, and brokenness before coming full circle to redemption, home-coming, and shalom. Before the music began, we were asked what we had “saudade” for…

For those not familiar, saudade is… a rich word – hard to explain, full of subtext and history. At its most basic, it conveys the equivalent of missing someone or something, feeling their absence (or maybe even the presence of their absence…) It carries connotations of an ephemeral longing for something that is not present (and may never be present). Yet amidst the melancholy of the absence of the presence of that which is longed for, there is the hope – however evanescent – of its possible return, no matter how unlikely or removed from the present time.

I made some time to think of what exactly is causing these feelings of saudade to well up within me. Partly, it’s been as I’ve thought of the past five years I’ve spent here in Rio – thinking of the hopes and dreams I had when I first came here, the slow suffocation of much of my idealistic self, the growing awareness of who I am and who God has made me to be, the murder of friends, the senseless deaths, the friends lost to prison, drugs, and hopelessness… The saudades of those relationships that have come and gone – and while there is the hope that one day I will see them again (for though we grieve and mourn, we do not grieve as those who have no hope), for now the ache remains.

Three years ago, Jeferson was killed. Such finality in so few syllables. And though it doesn’t occupy much of my mind in the day to day, when I sit down and remember him – his smile, his laugh, his songs and jokes, his love – I miss him. A part of my heart died that day.

Ten years ago, my mom’s 16-month struggle with cancer ended as she slipped into a coma, and went home to be with the Lord. She left a hole – and sometimes the waves of saudades roll in under the gray clouds and sea breeze and crash like thunder.

A few months after Jeferson’s death, I wrote this… It’s important to remember.

The importance of entering into saudade is that it is not merely remembering, but it is an active discontent – holding up the past and the present in light of a hope-filled future. It is being fully present (living in the “here and now,” as Nouwen would say) but anxiously looking towards the future. It is discontent at the brokenness around us, “kicking at the darkness ‘til it bleeds daylight,” and actively working, living, and loving to bring redemption and healing to “the bleeding points of humanity.”

I feel like I’m slowly recovering my vision – and hope that my faith, my life, and my love can begin to live up to my ideals. And I’ve more to say, but I’ve rambled enough for now…

May those who are hungry today be filled with bread. And may those who have bread be filled with a hunger for justice…


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Filed under food for thought, hope, loss, love, remember, saudades

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