Against All Odds by Chuck Norris excerpt
In mid-July 1973, Bruce Lee called to tell me he was in Los Angeles for the day and wanted to get together for lunch. He'd been living and working on films in Hong Kong, so I was excited to see him and catch up. Bob Wall and I met Bruce in Chinatown at one of his favorite restaurants.
Bruce seemed to be his usual ebullient self, but in our conversation he revealed the real reason for his being back in LA. He had mysteriously passed out several times while working on a movie in Hong Kong. The doctors there couldn't determine what was causing the problem, so Bruce had scheduled a checkup at a well-known hospital in Los Angeles. “I passed with flying colors,” he crowed. “The doctors said that I have the insides of an eighteen-year-old.”
I had to admit that Bruce looked great. Slender and strong, at thirty-two years of age he looked to be in perfect physical condition. But I was puzzled. “Well, if you're doing so well, what do the doctors think caused you to pass out?”
Bruce stopped short between bites. “Stress, I guess,” he mumbled. “Overworked, overtired. What's new?”
Bruce passed off my inquiry and turned the conversation to the enthusiastic reception his soon-to-be-released movie,
Enter the Dragon
, was receiving. “This is going to be big,” Bruce said, “and I've already received offers from several studios for more movie projects. They're offering me blank checks. ‘Just fill in the amount and cash them,’ they're saying. Can you believe it?”
I could believe it. I'd always believed that Bruce was going to be a superstar. I had no idea that he'd soon become a legend.
Bruce flew back to Hong Kong, and four days later I heard the devastating news that he had fallen over dead. I didn't want to believe that. I had just seen him so vibrantly alive, the picture of health, excitement, and happiness. How could it be?
Rumors regarding the mysterious nature of Bruce's shocking death flew back and forth across the Pacific faster than the jets that could carry them. Some reports claimed that Bruce had died with marijuana in his system, prompting questions about drug usage. Others suggested that Bruce's well-known experimentation with steroids may have led to his death. More outlandish stories hinted that Bruce may have been murdered, deliberately dealt a mortal blow by a hired killer, an expert in Oriental assassination techniques. Some of the proposed explanations for Bruce's demise seemed plausible; most were ridiculous. Perhaps the rumor mill was simply the world's way of trying to come to grips with the reality that none of us is guaranteed the next five seconds. Life is a gift from God.
At the time the official cause of death presented by the coroners in Hong Kong was “cerebral edema caused by a hypersensitive reaction to a headache-tablet ingredient,” similar to the rare but all-too-real reaction that some individuals have to bee stings. American doctors regarded the cause of death as a brain aneurysm.
Bruce was buried in Seattle, and because of his strong affinity with the Chinese community, a funeral service was also conducted in Hong Kong, attended by more than twenty thousand grieving fans. I attended another memorial service held in San Francisco, flying to the service with Bob Wall, Steve McQueen, and James Coburn, who had stared in the film
Our Man Flint
. James was one of Bruce's private karate students, and he delivered a moving eulogy of his teacher.
Following the service, Bob, Steve, James, and I flew back to Los Angeles together, but the trip home was extremely quiet. Each of us seemed immersed in our thoughts, pondering the message to us in Bruce's death. There he was, in prime condition, at the top of his career, and suddenly, it was over. Sure, he had accomplished his goal of becoming the most recognizable martial artist in the world, as well as his goal of becoming a major film star, but so what? Tell that to his wonderful wife and two young children he left behind.
To me Bruce's death was a powerful reminder of the fragility of life. More than that, it was a wake-up call for me. It reminded me that as much as I believed in self-determination and fulfilling my own destiny, I was not the person in charge. God was. More than ever I wanted my life to be about things that mattered not merely for a moment but for eternity.
“God has plans for you,” I could hear my mom saying.