An existential attempt to come to terms with Chester Bennington’s death
I wouldn’t call this reminiscence, as it does not suffice. However, I feel I will be unable to perform the mundane task of taking Chester Bennington’s image off my display and profile pictures, until I write whatever else will follow this sentence.
I first encountered Chester Bennington circa 2006. Although, at the time I didn’t really know what he was, or which part he would come to play in the mental formation and articulation of a chunk of my innermost proclivities. Then, he was only the other voice that magnificently translated, modulated, and amplified the range of emotions that charge through you, swelling in your veins whenever Linkin Park dropped some of your worst thoughts on you, along with profound wisdom, clarity, and otherworldly instrumentals. LP then left you to just roll with it. Luckily, you could share the experience with people who ‘understood’, or do so by yourself.
In that beginning, I was mostly by myself. So rather than be [in a way] blessed with the grace to share my joyful pain, I was fortunate to be alone to deeply appreciate Chester’s voice and the words it carried with powerful, relatable, precious angst. Sometimes I smiled to myself with my eyes tightly closed in overwhelming poignancy. Other times, I let the tears roll down. But I always felt better. Stronger.
“What would your mum think or say if she heard you listening to these kind of songs?”, asked Boyfriend №1 who introduced me to the band, one time with a wry smile. He was referring to the lyrics. I was in my aunty’s room, where I started locking myself away in to listen to my favourite songs, and only people who ‘understood’ could stay during.
I don’t remember what my exact response was. But if I was even half the girl who morphed into the steadily evolving woman I am now, then I’m sure it was something that made it clear that that was one of the issues “these kinds of songs” were directed at, and I wasn’t going to trade my newfound clarity and improved confidence for fear of my mother’s disapproval.
Linkin Park was everything. Chester screaming was an immense part of everything.
Two days before his death, I went to a place that shared his first name. Per usual, I took a picture of my latest eat-out conquest. But, it didn’t dawn on me in that moment that the name was one I was wont to point out in gleeful recognition. Just as we tend to do with names that mean something or someone to us. The following day, I was walking down an avenue with an acquaintance, and we passed by a store and saw that they had ‘cool’ t-shirts. Despite not being a general fan of imprinted clothing, I followed said acquaintance in to go check the store out.
I spot t-shirts with the name of my cherished band printed on them, barely four feet into the store. Of course — since I could afford it — I bought one, happily and with a copious amount of nostalgia and excitement. I couldn’t wait to show “The Gang”.
The following day, Chester was dead.
…And he committed suicide.
I’d love to coherently explain my sadness, my rage, my disappointment, my disbelief, my shock, my denial, my grief. Yet, I’m unable to, even though I experienced the full effect of all of those feelings. They washed all over me from head to toe, just like a Linkin Park track from my avid listening days would. Except with a cold strangeness I didn’t like, nor did I think was beneficial to me in any way.
Suicide. The one way for anyone to leave this earth I treat with guarded disdain. However, my reservations towards suicide did not race to the surface of my feelings as per usual. I didn’t even realise this latter fact until much later. I struggled to make my way back to the couch I sprang up from with a shout when I read the terrible news which came as a message from a member of The Gang. As soon as I made it there, I sprang back up with tears burning in my eyes to fetch the t-shirt I bought, so I could take a picture and send. I hoped that it would help me try to explain a quarter of my feelings in that minute, even though it took some good seconds to get a clear picture.
Many people have committed suicide before Chester Bennington. Many, many, many people. People we never know, hear about, or encounter in any close or distant manner. In the incidences of suicide in the news I tended to discuss with people, I let it be known how I wish they’d been stronger or tried better to get help. Who kills themselves??? How do you decide to KILL yourself and actually go through with it??????
It turns out you do when you’re [clinically] depressed, for example. But, “still…”, I have argued on different occasions. On my most intolerant days, I would even stand by a comment such as made by Brian “Head” Welch of Korn. Because, yes, maybe in the end, my true feeling towards suicide is pure, white, blinding anger! Anger that anyone would think to end their lives that way when there surely was a chance for healing. Anger I was too confused to feel when I learnt how Chester had passed away, or that he had passed away at all. Even as I type all this out, I remain stunned.
It turns out, Linkin Park didn’t just perfectly understand the dark sides of almost half of the world’s population of teenagers and youth (or practically anyone, really), and depicted this through rap and singing, and instrumentalism. They had lived it too. At least, Chester clearly had. Why didn’t I know this? Why didn’t I ever think or fear that one of my most favourite people in the world would eventually kill himself because he was depressed?
Okay, I am aware he once went through a tragic phase of depression and drug abuse. But he survived, right? He was alright again and making music with the band? He came out on top? At least this was the ‘last I heard’ from the band in general.
Discussing the pitfalls and dire consequences of living with the destructive mental condition that is depression is not the main focus of this piece — I think — but it is apropos to note its deadliness, for those afflicted by it and those who have to be around them, and how it strips you of every good thing in your life. It’s horrible. I hate it.
I cannot count how many times I’ve proudly told the story [I read] about how Chester killed his audition for Linkin Park. It might not have been a lot of times, but I cannot count. I cannot remember how many times I was lucky enough to scream along with Chester as loud as I could, but I know how sublime I felt at those times. The best house parties I’ve had in recent times always featured a bunch of people who ‘understood’ jumping and screaming together to tracks from the various LP albums (nothing too recent though).
How many Linkin Park songs would not aptly describe a kind of pain, state of misunderstanding, or personal or collective journey to freedom and redemption you think is peculiar to you? How many? Check. Not many. I’m not here to even try to preach LP to you.
In recent times — regrettably — the closest I have become with my band is social media (which I’m very thankful for in this moment), except at these get-togethers where we play LP songs. I rarely “like” or “follow” the accounts or pages of celebrities, because I don’t exactly ‘understand’ (read “see”) the point — as it does not validate or invalidate my love and respect for any icon in question — but I did with LP. Every now and then when I see something about them going on tour or releasing new merchandise, I “react”. I do this to keep the sacred and everlasting connection I have to Linkin Park contemporary. Because I’m going to meet the band one day and tell them how their songs were instrumental in prompting me to face myself and grow emotionally.
So, what am I supposed to do now? Still meet Linkin Park someday, albeit without Chester Bennington?
N.B. If you or anyone you know is suffering from depression, in any way and at any stage, please, seek help.
#DontTakeYourLife #LetsFindAWay #Depression #SeekHelp #ChesterBennington #LinkinPark #LP