A Leaf On The Wind: Grieving Through Stories

I lost someone recently. As an artist, I turned to art to help me through the grief. But I found I couldn’t run to the usual comforts. I couldn’t read fiction books. I could barely listen to music. And apart from one film, I haven’t been able to engage in a movie story line. TV stepped in and rescued me from the void.

I was watching Falling Skies last Sunday for work, and it was exactly the story I needed. Noah Wyle’s character makes a beautiful speech by the piece of art the 2nd Mass had created, The Liberty Tree, before they memorialize those they’ve lost. “It’s not about how long we live,” he reminds them, “but how we live and what we leave behind.”

The person I lost left behind a few hundred friends, a family, and an artistic community he encouraged to tell great stories. We’ve got a lot to live up to, and the speech from Falling Skies reminded me that even though the person we lost was young, he lived well, an example to us all.

I turned next to Buffy the Vampire Slayer to watch one of my favorite episodes, “Tabula Rasa”. It’s the one right after the musical in season six. Sadness hangs as a mist in the air. Tara and Willow are about to break up, Giles is leaving, Buffy’s still dealing with being dragged back from Heaven. Willow breaks her promise to Tara and casts a spell that goes wrong, leaving them with no memories of who they were.

The story becomes hilarious as Spike believes he’s Giles’ son, Anya and Giles believe they are engaged to each other, and Buffy changes her name to Joan, all while running away screaming from a couple of vampires.

However, the spell eventually cracks, and everything is just as before. Giles still gets on the plane to England, Tara moves out leaving a grief-stricken Willow, and Spike and Buffy still don’t know what their relationship is even supposed to look like. Life returns to normal and keeps going.

Honestly, I can’t tell you why this particular episode is comforting. I think it allowed me to cry (especially once “Goodbye to You” starts playing), and it helped me see that we can’t erase our pain. I can’t erase that I lost someone. I’d rather remember him and live through the pain than forget our time together. It also speaks to the rush of emotion that grief and loss pummel us with, and the different forms our griefs take.

Friday night’s Continuum episode was in the same vein. We see that Kiera dealt with a great loss in her past. Her sister Hannah was a drug addict, and because of their family dynamic, would not accept help from Kiera. This eventually led to Hannah’s death. The loss of a young life is especially cruel, and the person I lost was not even thirty. I grieve for the years he did not have, and the experiences he will never have. He was a storyteller and I always thought he’d go far. Now that he’s gone, I’m more determined than ever to tell stories, in honor of his dedication to exceptional writing. He made me believe that I could tell stories, too.

One of our friends, who couldn’t make it to the funeral since she was out of the country, found a bridge in Prague with memorials written on it. She inscribed his name and then added, “A leaf on the wind.” He was our Hoban Washburne. Loved by everyone. Funny, brave, kind. Gone too soon.

Lots of us went back to watch Firefly and Serenity, reliving our experiences with the person we lost. He loved television, introducing most of us to the likes of Joss Whedon, Aaron Sorkin and Ron D. Moore. We owe him for showing us our favorite shows, characters, quotes and writers.

TV means more to me than a “veg out” session. It’s how I deal with life. Through these stories, I make sense of mine. Especially in times of pain and loss like the last few weeks have been. The man I lost taught me that. I wouldn’t be the person I am without him, or the incredible force of television.

K.M. Cone

K.M. Cone

K.M. Cone is a story nerd, particularly for the episodic stories told via the medium of television. When not parked in front of the TV, K.M. Cone can be found writing kooky urban fantasy on her personal site, attempting to learn German, or making a huge pot of soup for her friends, who are probably coming over to join her in her latest TV or animated film obsession.
K.M. Cone

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  • Gina Marie Perpetua

    Beautiful. Television is an art form that, like any other art form, can help us process our grief.

  • That was a great article Kaitlin – I appreciate you sharing how stories have mixed into your life, especially now. While he taught me something slightly different, it was directly tied into a movie, which is awesomely appropriate. I’ll have to share that sometime.

  • Rachel Helie

    Our Angel lost someone too recently and I grieve with you both. It doesn’t take knowing someone to care about what they meant to those you appreciate and care about. You miss them. You grieve with them. That’s friendship.