Saudade, a word for my August

This time of year holds many sweet memories, a few bitter memories, and much sorrow, love, and life.

But today, as I was backing up my hard drive before daring to permit the newest Microsoft Office update that, according to reports, can drown me in a tidal wave of reboot, I came across a song*.

The song, too, holds so many things. Perhaps too many things. It is a favor. A gift through me to my mother from two amazing friends almost exactly a year ago, when life seemed particularly bleak. I can scarcely imagine the work and time that went into creating this file.

Listening to it today gives me a feeling that my sister taught me has a word.


I long for my friends and my family who are gone from my immediate presence or from the earth entirely. I feel melancholy over the past deaths of so many bright lights, both those I knew personally and the ones I didn’t, the ones who are killed daily, unjustly. I feel nostalgia for the first time I played this song in the hospital for my mother while she awaited a liver transplant. I feel warm nostalgia for August babies I know. I long for a global peace and justice.

It sounds like it might be a more-sad-than-not feeling, but I don’t think that’s true.

Saudade, I think, means the perfect storm of hope and fear and love and absence and presence and wishes and prayers and burning, visceral desire for a past and a future rolled together in the present but somehow better, especially because that’s impossible.

I’m not Portuguese or Brazilian, so I may not have this word exactly right in my head, but I owe the language and the people a debt of gratitude for the word, which stores its shared self in my heart.

It is a tangible, breathing, urgent word today.

If I began listing all the people and acts and memories connected to the word for me, I might never be done. And, in some ways, it seems obscene to create a public list as such. Too private. Too careful. Too raw. Like vivisecting my mental heart.

You know who you are, most likely, or you aren’t here anymore to see your name or I never knew your name. But I must hope you know what I mean.


A Note on Perspective: This post is not about Christianity, though I am a Christian. Nor is this post about a specific song, other than its touch on me today. No, this post is about the intersection of language, music, memory, and serendipity. This post is about a convergence of life and death in all its facets. For me, Christianity is more than a facet, it is the clarity within the facets, the best of the physical earth I could be. The clarity that struggles to be present in every facet, the me I long to have been, to be, to become. To that best and ever-unreachable me, too, saudade.

*In Christ Alone, Keith Getty and Stuart Townend, Recorded by James and Jennifer Cooper

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