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Monday, December 05, 2016

Thanking the Dead

I visited the grave of Brandon Lee today.

It was the first thing we did, upon arriving in Seattle for a week-long vacation.

Actually, the first thing we did, was I made my husband stop at the grocery store so I could buy some flowers.  It seemed weird and inappropriate not to bring some.  I found a bouquet of velvety dark red roses and Peruvian lilies.  The Peruvian lily is my favorite flower.  It was meant to be.

I was anxious, excited, nervous.

I've stopped and started this post a dozen times.  How do I explain to you, Gentle Reader, what the film The Crow has meant to me?  How do I help you understand why it was so important for me to visit the grave of the film's star, Brandon Lee?

Is it weird to want to thank someone you've never met?

After a few missed turns, we finally arrived at the cemetery in the late afternoon.  Brandon is buried next to his famous father, Bruce Lee, at the top of Capitol Hill in Lakeview Cemetery.  As the name implies, the cemetery overlooks Lake Washington, and it really is a beautiful view.  One of those views where you feel like you can see out to the horizon and into forever.  The graveyard looked like something out of a movie itself, with many traditional headstones and several pieces of somber statuary.  The late afternoon sun was sending slanted rays through the tree branches, making for some dramatic pictures as I clicked away with my camera.

Because of the influx of visitors, the caretakers have installed hedges around the Lees' graves to keep people from treading on neighboring plots.  I knew all this from researching online before we arrived, but we were still having trouble finding the graves.  Then I saw a young couple get out of a car, dressed head to toe in black leather, and I smiled.  "Follow the goth kids," I said to my husband, "They'll lead us to the graves."  And so they did.

It was bitterly cold out, and I was wishing I'd worn my coat. We came around the hedges and there were two impressive marble standing stones: a reddish brown one to mark Bruce's plot, and an ebony one to mark Brandon's place.  There were tokens everywhere, left behind by fellow pilgrims to the spot: flowers, oranges, incense sticks, coins, jewelry, plastic trinkets, notes scribbled on pieces of paper.

I was annoyed there were other people there.  They kept coming and going the whole time we stood there.  I wanted my own quiet time, with no one around, to just have a moment, but it wasn't going to happen.

I wanted to cry, but didn't.

I told Brandon "thank you" very quietly.  I laid the flowers down next to all the others.  It was satisfying and felt right, but also not satisfying.  Not satisfying at all.  I was left wanting.  There was nothing there but cold stone.  The dead can't talk back, you know, despite what we like to pretend when we're sitting in front of the silver movie screen in the darkened theater, watching Eric Draven return from the dead, an avenging angel, saying his final words to those he left behind.

Brandon died in the middle of filming The Crow, because of a terrible on-set accident.  There'd never be a possibility for me to thank him for that work while he was alive, as it was released after he'd passed.  Laying flowers on his grave was the closest I was ever going to get.

I've stopped and started this post a dozen times, Gentle Readers.  What do I want you to know?  Do I want to talk about the film and why it means so much to me?  Do I want to tell you about how artists can impact our lives for good?  Do I want to go on a tangent about why I'm drawn to cemeteries?  No. I think what I want you to know is this...

Don't wait to tell someone "thank you."

Don't wait to tell someone whom you care about the things that they really need to hear.

Tell them now, while they're still alive to hear them.

Talking to a headstone is a very one-sided conversation.

As we walked back to our car, and I stopped to take a few more pictures, I suddenly heard crows cawing.  I thought it was all in my head until I looked up.  Sure enough, high up in the sky was a murder of crows, circling on the air currents, cawing.  "Do you see that?" I asked my husband, "Do you hear them?" He smiled at me as I frantically tried to zoom in with my camera to get pictures, but the birds were too far away.

But I will always have the memories of that day.