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Well, I Do

Grieving for Someone I Never Met

Chester Bennington, singer-songwriter (1976-2017)

I decided for my first story on Vocal, to talk about something very personal to me. Now, I've been writing for a few years now, but I'm new to this Vocal thing, so bear with me...

People will tell you that it's stupid to feel sad that a celebrity died. "You didn't know them personally, and celebrities like them are a dime, a dozen." Well, to that I say: It's not about whether you knew them, it's about how they made you feel. And I can say that the man I'm here to talk about, made me feel like I could move mountains with a smile and a positive attitude.

Last year, Chester Bennington, lead singer of the band Linkin Park, passed away. As a big fan of the band and of Chester's voice, I was devastated. So what follows is the year afterwards, from when I first found out about his death, to where I am now.

Linkin Park is my favorite band. Their songs all mean something special to me, and I'm very attached to them because they helped me deal with a lot of issues through middle school and high school. Ever since I first heard about them back in 2007, I pretty much knew right off the bat, they were my favorite band.

Over the years, as I got older and began to understand more about the message behind their songs, I appreciated them more and they taught me a lot about life, about people and about myself, mostly about my inner strength as an individual.

So we fast-forward to July 20th, 2017: I had spent that morning in class with my friends, because I am a college student. My dad picks me up after class, and we drive down to this old record store that we visit pretty regularly. And while browsing around in there, I get a message from one of my old friends, telling me that Chester's gone.

At first I think it's fake. I mean, how could it possibly be true? If you're not familiar with Linkin Park, I should explain that a lot of what Linkin Park talks about is the strength to go on when things get tough. In particular, Chester was very vocal about his inner demons, and how it was very important to be strong. He always made me feel like I wasn't alone. It would seem unlike him to die the way he did.

So when I heard how he died, from the surviving members of the band, no less, a swell of emotions and conflicting feelings went through my mind— I felt betrayed, but I also felt empty. I felt anger, but I also felt a contradicting sadness. I thought about his family, about his band-mates and how much they were hurting. I felt angry for them, but I also couldn't imagine how sad his kids felt, and how much they must have cried and missed him. 

Most of all, I thought about how much pain he must have been in, to have come to a decision like that after being such a positive figure in people's lives all over the world.

I distinctly remember waking up in the mornings, in the first few weeks after, and there was a period of a few minutes of laying in bed where I would almost forget that he was gone. But then I would be wide awake, and that feeling would go away once I remembered why I always woke up so sad.

In the first months afterwards, his absence was all I could think about. I tried not listening to his music, blocking out the pain by distracting my mind any way I could. I even tried replacing Linkin Park as my favorite band, by trying to become attached to other bands. But nothing worked. And then I thought of a way to process my grief and finally get some measure of closure. 

I go to school for Digital Film. In fact, my love of movies was actually how I discovered Linkin Park in the first place. And after two months, it occurred to me to use my knowledge of film to tribute Chester in my own way, by making a fan-made music video about one of his songs.

It took longer than it probably should have, given how my hometown of Tampa was hit by Hurricane Irma that same month, and it delayed the shoot considerably. But thanks to my friends, I was able to make something that wasn't perfect by any means, but was almost exactly what I imagined. And everyone I showed it to, loved it. A community of Linkin Park fans in Tampa, who were also saddened by Chester's death, were blown away by it. And hearing about that made me smile.

And the healing began: I still had my bad days, and it was hard for me to smile sometimes, because every so often he would creep back into my mind. I started listening to Chester's music again, little by little. I must admit, it was hard at first: listening to such uplifting music knowing that his death was a huge contradiction to those songs.

I think where I finally came to terms with Chester's death was when I actually sat down and watched the music video that I made. It was for the Linkin Park song "Nobody Can Save Me," which despite its title, has a message about one having the power to save themselves. I realized that even when I'm not thinking of him, that Chester will always be with me. That's the effect that music has on all of us: We carry it everywhere.

It was sort of vindication for me, when Chester's band-mate Mike Shinoda released his solo album Post Traumatic this past June. In that moment, I knew that my strength and resilience against giving in to the pain had culminated in the knowledge that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. And if all we do is try and trust in our own strength, we can get to it.

So I guess, if there's a message to be taken from this, it's that we need to be there for each other, but we also need to remember to believe in ourselves.

Thanks for reading. I hope you've enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed writing it. I'll be sure to write more stories.

Linkin Park - Nobody Can Save Me (Unofficial Music Video)

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