There are two types of people we miss: Those we'll see again someday soon and those we won't, at least not in this life. Seventeen years ago, I left my home and home country, Brazil, and unwittingly found a home in these United States. Not a day goes by that I don't miss the people I left behind – childhood friends, my family – people who love me and whom I love. (In Portuguese, we have a word for this feeling: saudade, pronounced SAH-oo-DAH-jee.) But I know they're around, just a long flight away.
On June 30, 2013, 19 men departed this world tragically and abruptly, trapped by a wildfire's raging flames yet surrounded by one another. They died in unity, as one, but each left behind a hole in somebody's heart, a void that only the individual could fulfill. And these somebodies have each had to learn on their own how to live with the saudade. Amanda Marsh, wife of Eric Marsh, the superintendent – leader – of these 19 men, the Granite Mountain Hotshots, posted about her grief on Facebook the day after terrorists killed 14 people in San Bernardino, Calif. Amanda kindly gave me permission to use her post in this message. Here is some of what she wrote: My grief is personal. My grief is my own. It cannot be shared. It cannot be known truly by anyone else. I cannot be saved by anyone but myself. However, what I need is compassion. It is what we all need. Not pity, but compassion. I put my faith in humanity, that as a species we will finally understand that grief and death are real. No matter how much we want to look the other way, turn the pain off, we cannot. It becomes part of who we are. Within that grief is the ability for us to touch on humanity, to gain more compassion for others and to escape the bondage of self. The bondage that restricts us from truly experiencing life. As another mass shooting has occurred, 14 dead and 17 wounded, the ripples of loss, the ripples of grief are now playing out before us. Will we turn away, grateful it wasn’t us? Or will we allow ourselves to feel the pain? For what happened to them is happening to us all. We are not separate, we are all connected to each other through compassion. In this individualistic world we live in, connections give us purpose. They unite us. They give meaning to the lives we live. Connections helped Amanda Marsh tame her grief and find new meaning for her life. In the connections they shared, the Granite Mountain Hotshots found collective purpose and built an enduring culture of loyalty. Through the connections The Fire Line has allowed me to make, I've learned that I am only as strong as the people around me. So I've become more careful about my choices and more appreciative of the friends and loved ones I have, near and far. HOW DO YOU COPE WITH MISSING SOMEONE YOU LOVE?
WHY – AND HOW – I WRITE
The key to writing a good story is knowing what you don’t know and finding the right people and documents to help you learn it. You have a fundamental question that leads to a bunch of other questions that need to be answered so that your fundamental question makes sense. This is how I write.
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