Remembering Chester Bennington: What He Meant To Me

This post is very much about my own reaction to the news, but please send your thoughts and prayers to his family, his friends, and his bandmates.

Yesterday I was blindsided by news that literally broke me. Linkin Park lead singer and frontman Chester Bennington had died of an apparent suicide at his home. Chester had previously battled with addiction and depression, and it seems as if the news that one of his best friends, Chris Cornell, had committed suicide was too much for Chester to deal with on his own.

Two months ago, Cornell committed suicide, and during one of Linkin Park‘s first performances since the news broke, Chester was visibly shaken. Sadly, Chester was more heartbroken and lost than anyone realized as the day of Chester’s death would’ve been Cornell’s 53rd birthday.

“Looking for help somehow, somewhere. And no one cares. I’m my own worst enemy. I’ve given up. I’m sick of feeling. Is there nothing you can say? Take this all away.” — Linkin Park: Given Up.

When I found out what had happened, I immediately informed my family and closest friends of the news, but I didn’t think to first take some time for myself to deal with the news. I’m glad I was alone when I finally did.

“Clutching my cure, I tightly lock the door. I try to catch my breath again. I hurt much more than anytime before. I had no options left again.” — Linkin Park: Breaking the Habit.

I was in tears. Rocking back and forth. I was wailing. I didn’t realize how much noise I was making until my two dogs started to jump around and bark. They were scared. They were scared for me.

“Holding on to so much more than I can carry. I keep dragging around what’s bringing me down. If I just let go, I’d be set free. Holding on. Why is everything so heavy?” — Linkin Park: Heavy.

When I was eight years old, I heard Linkin Park for the first time. “In the End,” which is still my favorite Linkin Park song, was playing on a Danish music television show.

I didn’t know who they were. I didn’t care what genre they sounded like. I didn’t care how they looked. I just needed more of what they were ‘selling.’

I remember going down to a record store in Rødovre, Denmark with my parents to find out what band it was. Now, my parents had already heard the song, but they were perfectly happy with giving me their first studio album – Hybrid Theory.

I listened to it day and night, and it, along with multiple other Linkin Park albums, essentially became the soundtrack to more than just my youth — my life. In 2007, when I was just 13 years old, my sister took me to my first concert. Linkin Park were playing at Forum in Copenhagen, and it was probably the best night that I had ever experienced at that point in my life.

“In cards and flowers on your window. Your friends all plead for you to stay. Sometimes beginnings aren’t so simple. Sometimes goodbye’s the only way.” — Linkin Park: Shadow of the Day.

When Linkin Park‘s two frontmen both started their own side projects I happily followed them both. While I enjoyed Fort Minor, it was, however, Dead by Sunrise (Chester’s side project) that I gravitated towards. Chester Bennington was special. Chester had the best voice of his generation, and he used it to his best ability — both with Linkin Park and Dead by Sunrise.

To my knowledge, Dead by Sunrise never performed in Denmark. But I actually did get to see Chester perform live with Dead by Sunrise once. While on vacation in New York in 2009, I dragged my family to the Gramercy Theatre to watch them perform.

It was a great intimate little show, and afterwards I forced my family to wait with me outside in the cold streets of New York City. I hoped to meet Chester as he left the venue. Sadly, I didn’t get to meet him then, but I did get to meet some of the other band-members, like Ryan Shuck.

Living in Denmark, you sadly don’t always get to see your favorite band often, and I would sadly only get to see Chester Bennington perform once more. Thankfully, I did get to meet him, and the rest of Linkin Park, that time.

“Waiting for the end to come. Wishing I had strength to stand. This is not what I had planned. It’s out of my control. Flying at the speed of light. Thoughts were spinning in my head. So many things were left unsaid. It’s hard to let you go.” — Linkin Park: Waiting For the End.

I was lucky enough to be selected to take part in a meet-and-greet before their show in Herning in 2010. I got the chance to shake their hands and get an item autographed (an item that is now framed on my wall). It was the most nervous I’ve ever been.

I had brought a large image of the cover to the A Thousand Suns studio album, and when Mike Shinoda and Chester Bennington signed it, I remember them saying that it’s a great image because it doesn’t matter where you sign it, as it isn’t immediately apparent which side is ‘up,’ so to speak.

I replied by telling Chester that it actually reminded me of the front cover for Dead by Sunrise‘s album Out of Ashes. It was, and still is, one of the best moments of my life. I was overjoyed.

“When my time comes, forget the wrong that I’ve done. Help me leave behind some reasons to be missed. And don’t resent me, and when you’re feeling empty keep me in your memory. Leave out all the rest.” — Linkin Park: Leave Out All The Rest.

I haven’t had the chance to see them since, and therefore that was the last time I saw Chester live and in person. He’ll never know how much he and his band meant to me. He’ll never know how many tough times their songs got me through.

When I told my dad the news, he was clearly trying to calm me down. He told me that he remembers how he felt, when his idol – Elvis Presley – passed away.

And, yes, that’s how much Chester and Linkin Park mean to me. They’re my Elvis, my Lennon, my Cobain, my Cornell. I’ve always been a fan of the band. I’ve always supported them, even when friends were making jokes at their expense to my face.

“Who cares if one more light goes out? Well, I do.” — Linkin Park: One More Light.

I am heartbroken, and I’m not sure I’m going to be fine for a while. Thanks for reading.

Rest in peace, Chester.

– Jeffrey Rex Bertelsen.

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