Chester Bennington: The voice of a generation, and a heart of gold. I never thought I would be sitting at my computer trying to type through tears, as I pay my respects to a man who changed my life and inspired me to become passionate about the very gift in the world that truly saved me. That gift just happens to be music. Music is what I breathe into my lungs as I do the air around me. It is the reason why I write and live for Electric Perception, and put my hard-earned money into the community that continues to lift me up out of the dark. The community of people that I have met through my passion for music became my greatest advocate, and it continues to give me the push to become a better person, every moment of my life. Linkin Park is the band that started it all, for me. Sitting here at my computer and reflecting on my own experiences, with the musicians that truly inspire what I live for every day, has never been so devastating.
Linkin Park is the band that, for all intents and purposes, helped raise me. Linkin Park is the band that got me hooked on hard rock and metal music. They are the band that still inspires me to connect with myself and love myself as I am. Linkin Park is the first band I watched live; the reason my first major concert experience pushed me to start going to more concerts. I have travelled a good distance, a few times, to see shows I wanted to see because of the adrenaline rush I had from Linkin Park’s set. I have met so many amazing and inspiring people because of the connections I have been lucky enough to make with members of Linkin Park’s fan base. I found the desire within myself to make connections with other music fans I have met at other shows because of the influence Linkin Park has had on my love for music. I have had the chance to bond with other musicians that I admire, as well as a couple of local radio personalities. I am lucky enough to have gotten to share stories with them about the opportunities I had to interact with Chester and how those interactions changed my life.
The first time I met Chester, it was at a Linkin Park Underground Summit in Darien Center, New York. Toward the end of the Summit, I was standing in line for the meet and greet with Linkin Park. I will never forget the moment that it was my turn to meet Chester. I nearly broke down in tears as I worked up the courage to open myself up to him. A few short months before that day, I had been raped at a house party. I had put an emotional bubble around me, as I was still trying to figure out how to even begin to move on from the hurt and guilt that I felt like I was drowning in. Knowing that he had been molested in his youth, I figured this was the moment of clarity and assurance that I needed to get myself back into a state of mind that I could, at least, live with.
Opening up to Chester ended up being the greatest life-changing experience, for me. I never imagined I would ever have it. We spent a good ten minutes talking to each other. The moment I spoke to him about my situation, he put his arms around me and told me that I would be okay. He knew that I was just really starting to come to terms with what I had been through and, during our conversation, he told me he cared about me and that I would learn to fight through my struggle. The sincerity in his voice made me realize, that much more, that I would overcome my guilt and anger. It felt like my heart had connected with Chester’s, that day.
I had the chance to see Chester play with Linkin Park at Rock On The Range in May of 2015, Stone Temple Pilots in September of 2015, Linkin Park again for Music For Relief’s ten year anniversary benefit show the following November, and Kings of Chaos super group featuring some other big names in music in December of 2016. At both the Stone Temple Pilots and Music For Relief shows, he came down to where I was standing in the front of the crowd and sang with me. As we had the chance to duet into his microphone at the Stone Temple Pilots show, I will never forget the way he said to me, “You go, girl!” The fact that he liked my singing voice completely made my night!
The night of the Music For Relief benefit show, I got to catch up with Chester for a brief chat after he got finished chatting with a journalist. We talked about how we were both excited for the show. Towards the end of the show, he came down to me and stuck the microphone up to me so I could sing. We finished up the song “In the End” together after I got to “take the lead”, if you will. After the show, he sat at the edge of the stage to talk with fans. That is when I got the chance to convince him to sing “Happy Birthday” to me. I was floored that I got to have such a special moment with Chester. It honestly gave me chills to have my favorite vocalist sing “Happy Birthday” to me.
When I flew out to Las Vegas, Nevada to see him with Kings of Chaos, he was joined by Corey Taylor, Robert Deleo, Matt Sorum, Billy Duffy, Steve Stevens, Billy Gibbons, and Frankie Perez. Part way through the Kings of Chaos show, Corey Taylor started singing “Happy Birthday” to me and was joined by Chester. I felt like the luckiest person on Earth, at that moment. After the show, as soon as Chester came out, I was the first person to get a hug from him. We got to chat and cut up a bit. I got in as many hugs as I could from him because he was such a cuddle bug. His hugs just felt like home. I am forever grateful that the last time I got to see him alive was a wonderful moment for me to look back on.
If there was ever a human being that had a kind of magical power to heal your mental anguish on contact, that person would be Chester Bennington. His voice created a safe place for your mind, and his arms wrapped around you truly felt like home. He has inspired so many people to overcome their own emotional demons, and I am one of those people. The few times that I have met and spoken to Chester, he just knew how to warm me up with his kindness. He knew my face and my story, and he knew me in a way that was so different than how others knew me. The times we looked each other in the eyes, I just knew that he saw me for who I was. He just had a way of understanding you, the moment he laid his eyes on you. His soul spoke to mine, and it is extremely difficult to describe that connection with the appropriate words.
He inspired me to change the way I look at life and the struggles that I have been through, and what he contributed to Linkin Park inspired my will to keep on learning, growing, and developing myself to take on the world one moment at a time. I am still deeply heartbroken by his passing away. The day he died, it felt like my heart had been ripped out of my chest and every ounce of joy that he gave me had been ripped away from me. I have been dealing with a copious amount of emotions since he passed away, but I am learning how to lean on those who are still here to keep me from losing sight of what is important to me. I am learning how to handle my grief and live my life to the fullest without being able to look forward to seeing Chester’s beaming personality and warm smile.
I have been listening to Nothing More’s “I’ll Be Okay” as a reminder that there is more to this life than what has been lost and I have so many reasons to be grateful that I am here to pass on what is important to me onto those who need a friend and reason to exist. I want to stress that no matter how much chaos, destruction, loss, and death wreak havoc on this Earth before us all, each and every person that still walks this planet and breathes the air around them is needed and loved. No one is ever truly alone, even if it feels that way sometimes. Chester will be sorely missed because he also was needed and loved.
I will always be grateful for the time I got to share with you. Your warmth and hospitality was always far above and beyond anything I had ever imagined. You knew so much about my inner strength and motivation to live and breathe for something greater, well before I did. I keep you and the memories we shared in my heart. Your words, generosity, humor, and music have been my greatest source of inspiration on what I do in this life. I still feel your spirit inside of me. I intend to continue to spread your love, kindness, and humanity to those whom I have met and have yet to meet. Thank you for being the voice of my generation, and the reason my generation is inspired to go out and change the world around them. I will do whatever I can to make sure that your legacy lives on in the hearts of those who are still here to be a part of the change in the world all of us need to see and feel. You are forever missed, and your influence on music and the people who loved you will always be appreciated and remembered. It hurts to know that you are no longer with us, but we will keep you in our memories and leave out all the rest. Rest in Peace, Chester.