This post originally published on Threads of Stars on July 20, 2018.
All afternoon on July 20, 2017, my phone was going off: “did you see the news?”
And I had; all of us in the rock community had, the news spreading through our tight knit family like a blackout, lights suddenly switched out. Chester Bennington, the lead singer of Linkin Park and easily in the top 5 most influential voices in rock for the past two decades, had died by suicide. Just months after their latest record. Just months after all the interviews saying he’d been in a dark place but was in so much therapy, getting so much better.
It’s early to call it, but this might be the Kurt Cobain of my generation.
It matters because we’d identified with him for so long, processed our own emotions through his own words. I know it well; of a thousand memories, I remember being 17 and watching and re-watching the music video for “Numb,” because it was me. That was simple fact for millions: somehow, these songs were about us. And when we find ourselves echoed in someone else’s journey and then it ends in the dark– what does that say about our journey? What does that say about the possibility of hope?
And what do we do next, after and during the grieving?
First: we take from lives like Chester’s a legacy of the full sum, not the tragic mistake of a moment. His stories of rehab, of healing, of fighting to be more than an illness or addiction: those are still just as true as they were 24 hours ago. They are perhaps the truest things about his life. We will not remember the tragedies of others as their definition. We’ll be braver and paint the whole picture, light and dark.
And this does not have to be an indicator that the inevitable end is in shadow. It can instead be a reminder of how costly it is to continue to leave issues of depression, suicide, addiction, and mental health unaddressed for a single second longer. It can make us kinder to each other. It can make us fiercer in our fight against the killer that’s eating whole generations alive, leaving holes in families, in schools, in churches– on stages.
We can take to heart the reminder that fame and fortune aren’t any kind of antidote, and that sometimes the people who seem to have it best need help the most. And even if sometimes all the right methods of treatment can’t erase the choice of a moment– those methods are still worth pursuing, because if there’s a chance that they can keep one person alive for five more minutes, that’s a chance worth fighting for.
We should be sobered. We should never be without hope.
“They say that I don’t belong
Say that I should retreat
That I’m marching to the rhythm
Of a lonesome defeat
But the sound of your voice
Puts the pain in reverse
No surrender, no illusions
And for better or worse
When they turn down the lights
I hear my battle symphony
All the world in front of me
If my armor breaks
I’ll fuse it back together.
My battle symphony:
please just don’t give up on me.”
– Linkin Park
Let’s fight together, my friends. It’s what we do.
Chester Bennington’s wife Talinda Bennington has risen as an incredible voice of advocacy and life in the year since losing Chester. For more about her mental health initiatives or if you need help, please visit changedirection.org. You can also follow Talinda on Twitter to join the conversation.
You can also read Linkin Park’s reflections on one year without Chester on their Facebook here.