When I was younger, my dad would rent a VCR and watch his rented Bruce Lee movies during his weekends at home. I never became a fan of martial arts movies, but I did become a fan of Bruce Lee; mostly because any thoughts of Bruce Lee always stirred up fond memories of my dad, relaxing on the couch forgetting all his worries.
So of course, when my husband, Rob and I planned a trip to Seattle, Wash., earlier this year, visiting Bruce Lee’s gravesite was at the top of my list of places to visit. I certainly didn’t expect the impact this visit would have on me.
I was fascinated to visit the gravesites of Bruce Lee and his son, Brandon Lee, who is buried by his side. I was overpowered with emotion as I read the inscription on Brandon Lee’s tombstone, “Because we don't know when we will die, we get to think of life as an inexhaustible well. And yet everything happens only a certain number of times, and a very small number really. How many more times will you remember a certain afternoon of your childhood, an afternoon that is so deeply a part of your being that you can't even conceive of your life without it? Perhaps four, or five times more? Perhaps not even that. How many more times will you watch the full moon rise? Perhaps twenty. And yet it all seems limitless...” (Paul Bowles)
I was overwhelmed as I contemplated our temporary existence. Even though contemplation of that subject was not foreign to me, at that particular time I felt that it led me into a deeper reflection than I had ever experienced. I thought, “I must remain aware of the imminent death we all face in such a way that I never take anything or anyone for granted again! I must try harder to be a better person! I must call my children right now to tell them I love them! I must tell my parents how grateful I am for all the lessons and love they shared with me. I must practice a greater depth of respect for those who could be ripped away at any moment.”
I walked away from that visit to the gravesites of Bruce and Brandon Lee with many promises.
I will listen to every word my son tells me about what makes him happy and what makes him sad. I will try to be more approachable.
I will spend more time with my daughter. I will give less advice and listen more. I will suspend my judgement when she tells me something I don’t understand.
I will play with my youngest son more. I will try to control my quick temper enough to not shout out curses in front of him when I stub my toe and break it for the 20th time!
I won’t nag my husband over petty things that don’t matter in the whole grand scheme of our existence and that I will be better at being the wife he deserves or the friend that he needs. If today was my last day to live or his, would it matter that he didn’t hang up his jacket or left a wet towel on the floor?
I am going to appreciate the laughter in our home more. I won’t be quick to judge people.
I won’t get so moody when things don’t go my way; or so perturbed when someone flips me the bird in traffic because they feel entitled to bulldoze their way into my lane. I won’t carry that resentment or anger into the hallway as I get to work.
I won’t mutter something under my breath about the person who I think is less skilled than I am when it comes to getting behind a 5,000-pound engine and manoeuvering around, and I will let it go quicker and easier than ever before.
I won’t complain about so many things.
Alas! Since that visit, many days have come and gone and slowly but surely my humanness gave way to my imperfections.
I might have let someone into the lane ahead of me and when I didn’t receive that wave of appreciation I expected, negativity seeped into my mind about their lack of manners for a moment before I reminded myself to give without expectations.
I might have approached someone aggressively or passed judgement, before reminding myself that everyone is fighting their own battle. That I do not know what they are going through and that maybe it would be better to approach with patience, kindness, and respect instead.
I might have ended up saying something thoughtless to one of my children or my husband, and momentarily my clean slate has been scribbled with recurring mistakes and regrets.
Since that day when I visited the gravesites of Bruce and Brandon Lee, my imperfect life continued. But life isn’t supposed to be perfect. We live, we die, we hurt, we heal, we love, we lose, we laugh, we cry.
I am not perfect and neither is anyone else; so I am quicker to forgive myself and others. This allows me to make way for my next opportunity at practising being less critical, less defensive, more respectful, kinder and gentler; because it may be my last chance to do so. I want to contribute more than I expect to take for myself. And rather than living life in fear of making mistakes and being imperfect, I keep trying, keep hoping, and keep believing in the goodness of myself and all of humanity.
Some of the greatest things about humanity are that we are capable of healing, forgiving, tolerating, respecting, sharing compassion and generosity, and much more during our fleeting time on earth.
We must be open to the possibility that the most unexpected people and places have lessons to offer.
We just never know when our time will come. If you were aware that death was coming for you tomorrow, what would you want the moments in your life to reflect?