This is kind of a long post; I guess I have a lot to say.
To help me deal with my grief for Chester, I wrote this letter to show my gratitude and appreciation for Chester and LPs music. Some of this may sound a bit cliché - but it came from my heart and I trust that shines thru in this letter.
I’ll never forget when I found out about Chester. I randomly decided to look up videos on Grey Daze (Chester’s old band before LP). Reading thru the comments, people wrote “Chester R.I.P.” Thinking that this was just a nasty Internet rumor, I paid little attention until I started seeing that same comment on multiple videos. Still hoping it was a hoax, I did a quick Google and read what Mike posted on his Twitter that day. I was shocked, saddened, and had a million questions.
In the months since that dreadful day, I’ve found that some days are better than others. This past week, I watched the tribute concert that was streamed live in October and reality slowly began sinking in. The empty microphone during Numb really hit home. Mike’s insightful song “Looking for an Answer” was really heartfelt, too. Ever since I watched that concert, I haven’t been able to do much. I know there’s something important here for me (and us?) to learn, so I’m sorting thru this in the only way I know how – thru writing. Whenever I’ve lost someone, especially without having a chance to say goodbye, it’s helped me to write them a letter so I can say all the things I should have/never got a chance to say. With this in mind, I wrote this letter to Chester with gratitude.
You’ve been gone for 6 months, but sometimes it feels like it’s only been 6 hours. I never had the privilege to meet you, but you’ve had a positive and profound impact on my life. Thru your music, you saved so many people, including myself. One person wrote that your voice was the voice of an entire generation of angsty teenage metalheads. This was certainly true of me.
I’ve been a LP fan for most of my life going back to the beginning of LPs first studio album Hybrid Theory. I grew up just like the band grew. As time passed, I slowly drifted away from the LP community, but the values and symbols LP used never left me.
As you know, the image that appeared on the cover of Hybrid Theory was a soldier with dragonfly wings – a symbol of the hard and soft sounds that was Hybrid Theory. Drawing upon this, we Linkin Park fans took to calling ourselves soldiers, a symbol that particularly resonated with me. Middle school and high school wasn’t exactly a fun stage in my life; it was harsh physically and emotionally. In my daily life, I felt like I was being shot at, emotionally. I knew I wasn’t going to make it unless I became tough, and thinking of myself as a soldier made sense to me. I knew I was fighting a war to keep my own sanity. The things I encountered in those bloody years horrified me. Things got really bleak and I admit to thinking and planning what you yourself contemplated and then completed. Yet, a soldier’s duty is to soldier on and complete the mission.
Fortunately, no soldier has to fight a battle or war alone. There are sundry squads, umpteen units, plenty of platoons, countless companies, and rife regiments. So I reached out via the LP forums and found other soldiers who supported each other and were having similar struggles like me. While facing the horrors of hell, one of the things that forms between soldiers is a sense of camaraderie and community – a feeling that came from the support I received and gave away. With the help I received from other LP soldiers, I found the strength to go on and complete that difficult chapter in my life. I like to think that the hard parts of my life have taught me something important – the importance of asking for help when it is needed, and that making it to the end of the day is indeed an accomplishment. This brings to mind the softer, sensitive symbol within the Linkin Park soldier: the delicate dragonfly wings.
The Linkin Park soldier is no ordinary soldier; the LP soldier has wings. Dragonflies have a very short lifespan – only a few months. For the dragonfly, time is precious and should not be wasted. For me, the dragonfly also embodies beauty and hope – its wings are iridescent and reflect the bright rays of the sun, but are fragile, just like hope and life itself. Dragonflies make the world around them a better place – they eat mosquitoes and other insects that cause disease and are pretty to look at. After a hard battle, I like the idea of a soldier merging with a dragonfly because it represents the harsh reality that is sometimes life while also helping fellow creatures and showing how fragile and precious life is.
I can’t say that I emerged from my war unscathed – I have plenty of scars to remind me of the pain I endured. And yet, I am proud of my battle scars – they remind me of where I’ve been and what I’ve gone through. I survived. Because of the lessons I’ve learned, lessons that you taught me (I’ve learned are very true), not only do I know I can endure whatever life throws at me, but also that I have a duty to help others, like the dragonfly does. There was a time where I was doing well if I made it to the end of the day without hurting myself. Now, my new mission is to help people however I can. A soldier doesn’t fight for himself/herself alone, but for something much bigger – among these are those the soldier loves. Thru the pain I endured, I’ve learned to appreciate the things that really matter in life: Family. Friends. People really do matter. And the time spent with them is precious.
Maybe the LP soldier’s wings spring from the idea that pain/harshness can be transcended and let you soar above the petty problems of life and thus gain a bigger perspective. At least that’s what I like to think. I will soldier on, but not without the battle scars and wings that remind me of where I’ve been and what really matters in life.
Chester, I won’t pretend to know why you did what you did. There is so much that even your most dedicated fans don’t know about your struggles. “Why?” is a question I’ve felt asking a lot these days. As Mike insightfully pointed out, perhaps the answer is that there is no answer. What I do know and so many of your other fans know is that you were our voice – the voice of those lost, lonely, left out, forgotten, angry, addicted, - human, all too human - people whose lives you gracefully touched. And you do matter.
I have read numerous posts reminding us soldiers of how you’ll never really be gone because you live on in your music. I agree, but would like to build upon that idea. You, Chester, live on not only in your music, but in all those whose lives were changed for the better because of you. You were our voice when we lacked a voice (for whatever reason) of our own. Your voice became our voice. Now that you are gone, we are your voice.
This is no light responsibility. We who remain can help others just like you so clearly did thru your music. Life isn’t all struggle, but neither is it frivolous. It is a combination of these two – depicted in the soldier-dragonfly. Having experienced struggle, we soldiers can be inspired by you to use what we have learned to help the world around us; to do good in this miserable world.
Chester, you taught me this.
I’m so grateful for you and the music that continues to inspire countless fans around the world.
I’m proud to call myself an LP soldier because I know I have a community that cares. You helped make all of this happen.
Thank you, Chester.
Until we meet again, comrade.