A life lost is a sad thing. A life well lived is something to celebrate.
And losing a life well lived is extra tough to take. It hits you. Hard.
On July 20th, I, and many others, were hit by the devastating news that Chester Bennington, the lead singer of Linkin Park, had passed away. It was so sudden, so sad that I almost did not believe it at first. It was a normal Thursday afternoon for me, taking a little break from running experiments, I checked my phone and saw my friend Su sending me a message “What, Chester committed suicide?!” I felt something broken inside me.
Double check the news to see if it was true, and Mike’s tweet confirmed it. I sank down on to my chair, memories of my youth surged back from the depth of all these years and washed over me like a tidal wave, and tears started streaming down on their own. While I was shocked, the denial and questioning phases were over rather quickly. I was left with this void, with the painful realization that although Chazzy had helped many people, including myself and a number of my friends, to manage through their dark days, he himself ended up fallen. There was this haunting question “Could I, could anyone, have done something to help him?” And from the outpouring of messages from people, some I know and the rest I don’t, shared online, I quickly learned that they felt the same.
Usually when there’s news about celebrity deaths, I spend a brief moment wishing them rest in peace, and look up some of their works as a way to remember them. And then life goes on. But Chazzy was different, was special, and that’s why the news was so hard to take. Even right now, as I’m typing these words, I’m crying. I have waited almost ten days to write this, thinking I’d be calmer, and I am, but still the tears don’t stop. His voice and LP’s music was the OST of my youth: angsty, painful, desperate, yet full of hope and inspiration.
I learned about LP when I was in 8th grade, shortly before Meteora came out, and quickly became a fan. I still remember racing downstairs whenever Numb was shown on TV (I was not familiar with the Internet at the time, and did not have connection at home anyway), it was like the best music video ever. Hybrid Theory and Meteora spoke my mind, shared my emotions and powered my resolution. I was not the most rebellious teenager out there, nor did I have the most turbulent childhood, to be honest I was rather tamed, or at least knew how to act like it, but I did have problems. In my time of troubles, when I felt the world was against me, when I doubted my ability to move forward, Chazzy’s singing and Mike’s rap pulled me through. I loved them so much I decided to learn English properly for the first time (before that I couldn’t be bothered). I watched their LPTV series, and Chazzy appeared as this bright, funny character, cracking jokes with the members all the times. I learned to sing and rap along to all their songs, laughing at how bad I was but never gave up. I was a crazy Mike’s stan, but Chazzy’s singing was the soul of the band. Minutes to Midnight was the first authentic CD that I bought, and I went the distance to do that. The album was not available it Vietnam, all you could buy was the knock-off version which sold for 7000 VNd (about 40 cents, cheap right?), so I opened a debit card (at a time when I had no money, and card was not that common), went to the capital city to get it (and was scolded by my parents) and bought the album from Amazon. I just wanted to be a proper fan, showing them support, and it felt good to do that too.
More importantly, LP has brought me and my friends together, many of them stayed close friends to this day. We listened to LP and sang their songs together. We shared the lyrics and practiced singing. The first shirts I ever painted were 3 white T-shirt I painted the LP logo on for myself and 2 friends in high school. My best friend and I went to watch Transformer just to hear Iridescent and see LP mentioned in the credit part. Oh the memories….
To be honest, I am not as much of an LP fan today as I was back then. The last album I bought was Living things, and I’m not super familiar with their more recent songs. It might be the change in music direction, might be the fact that I have different concerns now compared to the me 10-13 years ago. But I still follow them, and still enjoy their older songs. LP was an important part of my youth, so integrated that I don’t even notice anymore, like the air. And when the sad news came out of the blue, it dealt a heavy blow to my foundation. The first song I thought of was Leave out all the rest, a song which had always sounded like a goodbye, and at that moment, it became the final goodbye.
“When my time comes
Forget the wrong that I’ve done
Help me leave behind some reasons to be missed
Don’t resent me
And when you’re feeling empty
Keep me in your memories
Leave out all the rest
Leave out all the rest….”
It was as if he wanted to prepare us for this parting. And so in face of the tragedy, I tried to do just that, just keep him in my memories and leave out all the rest. But it proved tough. I didn’t question him, didn’t resent him, didn’t even remember him doing any wrong so I had nothing to forget; however, I just couldn’t get over this heavy cloud of regret, of “What could’ve been…” It was some sort of vague regret, because I personally couldn’t have done much anyway, but there was this lingering thought that someone, something could have helped.
The next day I went to work wearing all black, including my first Underground T-shirt I got years back. Some labmates asked me why the black clothings, and I said I was in mourning. One guy who usually listens to LP just looked at me knowingly, and said “Good shirt choice”. I knew he shared the pain too, more or less. Many of my friends from high school are LP fans, and they all expressed their sorrow. We posted songs to remember him, we talked, we consoled one another. It was the same on every social platform that I was on, and that made me (and I believe others too) feel a bit better. Even in his passing, Chazzy still brought people together. We stay strong.
Last Sunday, I decided to paint a picture of Chazzy, and I did so while listening to LP’s entire discography. My memories came alive with each song, and I cried. I had a vision for the painting, with words from song titles scattered all over, and I had planned to make them rather highly visible. They were all words that express some sorts of pain, or anger, or ending. And then The Messenger came on, and the tears were overflowing. Was this how he felt, I thought.
“When you’ve suffered enough
And your spirit is breaking
You’re growing desperate from the fight…”
and I wished he could have listened to his own voice singing these lines:
“Remember you’re loved
And you always will be
This melody will bring you right back home”
and I was overwhelmed with the hope he still managed to spread:
“When life leaves us blind
Love keeps us kind
It keeps us kind”
These words struck me, and I decided to make them the headlines in the painting instead. The other words were still there, but much less visible. Like how pain and suffering are parts of life, they are there whether you want or not, but above all, I’d like to keep things positive. As I told my best friend, I hope Chazzy will be remembered as the voice that lifted the spirit of a generation. And as part of that generation, I will remember Chazzy as The messenger who told us to keep hoping, keep trying, be kind and love people, and ourselves too.
His wife gave this heartfelt statement “And now he is pain-free singing his songs in all of our hearts. May God bless us all and help us turn to one another when we are in pain. Chester would’ve wanted us to do so”.
Friends, keep him in our memories, and leave out all the rest.