From Wikipedia:
Grief is a multifaceted response to loss, particularly to the loss of someone or something that has died, to which a bond or affection was formed. Although conventionally focused on the emotional response to loss, it also has physical, cognitive, behavioral, social, cultural, and philosophical dimensions. While the terms are often used interchangeably, bereavement refers to the state of loss, and grief is the reaction to loss.

Not everyone grieves the same, and what I am about to write is just me expressing what has crossed my mind in the past and what is crossing my mind right now.

Edited To Add: apparently, the sound on that clip is too low for some to hear. Paraphrasing, the transcript of the clip can be boiled down to this:
Inara (the woman): “You don’t have to die alone.”
Mal (the man): “Everybody dies alone.”
The scene is about him staying with his ship (dead in space) while they go off in the shuttles looking for help. At this point of the story, his chances of surviving if he stays on the ship are not that good.

That scene is from the Firefly episode Out of Gas, one of my favorite episodes in the series.


It sounds profound. It sounds like something a mystic might say. The phrase goes back a way if one cares to research it, and there are many interpretations as to the actual meaning. Jim Butcher uses it in the book Dead Beat of the Dresden Files series and gives an interpretation I (mostly) like:

“Son. Everyone dies alone. That’s what it is. It’s a door. It’s one person wide. When you go through it, you do it alone. But it doesn’t mean you’ve got to be alone before you go through the door. And believe me, you aren’t alone on the other side.”

Two-thirds of humans ascribe to the pronouncement about the other side. I’m not one of them. But, I can get behind the idea of a door one person wide. In those last few moments, no matter the company you are with, no matter the setting, you take that step on your own.

I think that is why so many people are afraid of it, even some people who believe something wonderful is waiting for them on the other side.

Flowers, C-130, Bugs,

Believing that this world is all we will ever experience likely leads to a different sort of grief from that born from believing we continue on. I say “likely” because I don’t know. Grief is a personal thing and I can’t say I’ve ever been able to express the breadth and depth of it and neither have I heard anyone express theirs in a way that had me understand — fully understand — what the person was going through.

Too powerful for words, is what comes to mind when I think of grief.

Flowers, C-130, Bugs,

There are two parts to the sorrow associated with grief. One is sometimes directed at the person who died, and it takes the form of — for lack of a better phrase — feeling sorry for them.

Except, that person is no more. No matter what you believe, the person you knew, their personality, their fears, hopes, likes, dislikes, accomplishments, failures, in short, the totality of them is no more.

I think, then, that feeling sorry for them is rooted in imagining ourselves in their place.

That is a paradoxical form of grieving; it is a form of empathy, and to my mind, we feel as much sorry for our own eventual fate as we do for that of the person we lost.

I’m probably not expressing it correctly, but I base my thinking on the fact that person is either no more, and hence beyond us feeling sorry for them, or is in a better place, and hence feeling sorry for them makes no sense beyond us seeing our own fate reflected in their passing.

Understand, I don’t know what others feel. Heck, I can hardly express how I feel. But, if I think about it, if I think about what “feeling sorry” for others means in general terms, I conclude it means we would feel sorry if we were in their place.


The other part of grief is the one rooted in our own sense of loss.

While selfish, it is nonetheless the true measure of what the person meant to us. It speaks to the impact the person had in our lives. It is the purest form of appreciation I can think of when I think about people I’ve met in my life.

Some will leave a void if/when they die before I do. Some will merit a passing thought of sorrow, marking their loss with a few memories of past interactions. The vast majority will elicit little response beyond acknowledging that it has happened.

Yes, for that last sentence some will think me a monster, but I cannot — beyond contemplating the tragedy of human mortality — feel a personal sense of loss for someone far removed from my life.


We console others for the loss of their loved ones in an attempt to help the person bear the grief of their loss, or at least that’s how I interpret it.

Some will say things like “they are in a better place” or more direct religious pronouncements regarding how this or that deity had a part in the unfolding of events.

Again, that is not me. I can only provide what I am capable of; acknowledging the deceased was a person of merit, worthy of being mourned and remembered. A person who mattered.


Mary passed away yesterday. She was our neighbor at the condo, a nice lady with a good sense of humor, an interesting person who lived an interesting life, a person we only knew for a month, but who impressed both of us. She was a person we would have liked to have known better, but who even in the short time we knew her came to matter to us.

She liked the color blue, she liked Hawai’i and she loved fireworks.


We grieve her passing and will remember her.

About disperser

Odd guy with odd views living an odd life during odd times.
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24 Responses to Grief

  1. desleyjane says:

    So sorry for your loss. It seems you got to know Mary quite well in the short time you knew her.


    • disperser says:

      Thank you.

      It was more that we got the measure of the person than really got to know her. She and her sister were here for the winter and we had just started to interact with them. Like I said, we wish we would have gotten to know her a bit better and would have but for the turn of events.


  2. Sorry for you loss Emilio.This is a very profound and thought-provoking post and the photos are beautiful. I’m sure Mary would have loved them. Sending you hugs xx


  3. araneus1 says:

    A fitting tribute and an interesting bunch of thoughts…


  4. sandra getgood says:

    Much food for thought here, and beautifully written. It’s sad that you didn’t have more time to enjoy the company of your neighbor, and vice versa, but that sometimes happens, and even if it seems a very short time, it is a good thing. And it’s always too short a time for those who really mean something to you and have added something important to your life.
    …and “Out Of Gas” was my favorite too.


    • disperser says:

      Thank you, Sandra.

      This is first and foremost a tribute to a lady who we will remember.

      I’m sure the loss we feel is at least in part rooted to both the proximity and having spoken and joked with her shortly before she died, and as such it’s closer to sadness than a deep void that might be left by the loss of a loved one, but there is substance to it beyond that because, as you say, she added something to our lives by the way she approached and lived her life.


  5. oneowner says:

    I am so sorry for your loss.


  6. mvschulze says:

    I think grieving is a way of dealing with loss. Simple. It’s what you do. It’s really not mandatory, but pretty much natural and expected.
    But it is not necessarily FOR the departed – that really depends on the viability of religious doctrine
    I occasionally ponder… that if we really are never in the knowledge that we die…(definition of death including being brain dead or incapable of any thought,) to our knowledge, we don’t die! M :-)


    • disperser says:

      I’ve been asked before about my feeling toward death in relation to a lack of belief. My answer is simple . . . we “cease to exist” as thinking and aware beings every single day when we go to sleep.

      That lack of awareness is — again, for me — as close as I can imagine what being dead might be like. Obviously, we wake from sleep, but if we didn’t, we would not be aware of a change in our state. For all practical purposes, there is no functional difference in our lack of awareness be it from sleep, having been sedated for surgery, having fainted, or dying.


  7. disperser says:

    I want to thank everyone who has expressed sorrow for my loss and I want everyone to know it is appreciated in recognition for your concern for me.

    At the same time, I feel a bit guilty because Mary’s sister’s loss is immeasurably greater than that experienced by my wife and me. I’m not even sure what we feel can be classified as true loss because we did not know her as well as we would have liked. There is sorrow, lots of it, mostly for Mary’s sister. Mary herself died where she wanted to be and her ashes will remain here.

    My own grief is different even from that of my wife’s insomuch that I live and feel what I said above: I acknowledge Mary was a person of merit, a person that mattered, and worthy of being remembered and I am glad I knew her for this brief time.

    This post is not a way for me to handle my feelings (I do that privately), and it’s not meant to burden others with concerns for what I might be feeling; it’s first and foremost a way for me to acknowledge and remember Mary even as I ponder and examine the very complex boundaries of what we classify as grief.

    Again, thank you for your expressions, and know they are appreciated, but also know the main takeaway from this is that I am glad I knew Mary and that she will be one of the persons I will remember until my own time on this rock ends.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I’m sure Mary would love the photos you shared and the fact that you are remembering her and mourning her.
    I think we all want to be remembered.
    This is a beautiful post that I needed today.
    My niece Angela…one of her brother-in-laws died last night…he was in a car accident on Friday. He was only in his early 40’s…he leaves behind a wife and 2 children. So, our family is mourning today.


  9. AnnMarie says:

    Your tribute is very loving. Mary must have been a truly extraordinary woman to touch you so deeply. You have our condolences.


    • disperser says:

      I feel that my words are being misread at least to a certain extent.

      Mary was a regular woman with an interesting life who had retired five years ago to enjoy life after working hard for many years. She was a likable person with a good sense of humor. She once biked across the US. She was 63.

      This post is a contemplation of what people go through when faced with death on a personal level and an opportunity to offer a small tribute in her memory.

      We did not have a deep connection nor a high level of familiarity. We did like her approach to life and her attitude and we liked her and we will remember her.


  10. Must admit you wrote a a top post here, and couldn’t agree more. I know my time will be up a lot sooner than most;(and I expect your agreement on that statement at least!); a fact that I consider often, and it strikes me that what it is, is that I am curious, curious as hell in fact, to know what I’ll be thinking as I die. Not that it’ll matter one dot when I stop

    I have no fear or dread, I know precisely what will happen to my corpse, immediately, it’ll be popped into a bag, and shuffled off 80/100km to the University, where I hope doctors in waiting, will have some fun with it!
    They’ll wonder where the missing bits are;might be an idea if I give them your email and you can tell them.
    Just one thing ej, I tried and tried to listen & hear what was being said in that clip, even with my volume up I couldn’t make it out, I’d be interested to know, and if you want to send me the text by email I’d appreciate it.
    Curse being so damned hard of hearing. Thank christ the symphonies I listen to have loud bits.
    Why does the spelling check underline my spelling of christ?
    Buggered if I know.
    Thanks for a really good post Emilio.


    • disperser says:

      You are welcome . . . and the transcript of the clip can be boiled down to this (paraphrasing):
      Inara: “You don’t have to die alone.”
      Mal: “Everybody dies alone.”
      The scene is about him staying with his ship (dead in space) while they go off in the shuttles looking for help. At this point of the story, his chances of surviving if he stays on the ship are not that good.

      “christ” is underlined because the accepted spelling is capitalized.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. I’m glad you got a chance to know your friend Mary even if it was only for a month.


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