Chester - 3,527 miles, 109 hours
Sitting down to pen this letter, it's already been over two weeks since you've passed. On the day that it happened, one of my best friends sent me a text with simply your name and a crying emoji. When I saw it my heart dropped to the pit of my stomach. Mind racing, I decided that day I would write this letter to you, but it would take me the next two weeks to try to rationalize and make sense of it all.
My first memories of Linkin Park came in the summer between 7th and 8th grade. Much like every other boy in my small grade school I played football. This meant the latter part of the summer was spent riding bikes to football practice and hanging out with the team. At around 80 pounds and probably 5 years prepubescent, I was not the best football player and never really hit a stride with my teammates. We would hang out every day before or after practice, but playing macho games like nutcracker and smear the queer didn't quite make me feel at home with who I was.
One day we were forced inside by a coming storm, so we all huddled down in a friend's basement for the afternoon. Most of the guys were playing pool or foosball, but my buddy also decided to throw on a DVD in the main room. It was Live in Texas. For the next hour I sat in front of the TV and didn't move an inch. The very next day I went to the store and bought the CD/DVD combo and nearly wore it out that summer.
Watching you sing songs like Somewhere I Belong, Papercut, Faint, and Runaway ignited a fire in me that continues to burn today. You sang songs with so much passion, conviction, and tenacity that even at a young age I could feel an inner struggle between pain and love rage inside, just as they do in me. You were a voice for those who at times felt lost; the often dark messages of each song lined with encouragement: "Persevere, believe in yourselves. One day you'll be up here with us."
As the years passed by I'd continue to scream with you from album to album. Minutes to Midnight during high school and LIVING THINGS during college. At times things only seemed to get worse, but your words always had a way to get me through. It was as if we were both on this chaotic journey together, and during those times I couldn't find a way to pull myself up, you would do it for me.
After college, I became much more independent and things have gotten especially dark in the last couple of years. I'm beating myself up over problems that don't actually exist, and convincing myself that those who love me the most are hurting me. I keep leaning more and more into myself and refuse to share this with anyone in hopes to silence it all, but my problems only seem to magnify. When I heard of your passing, things only got darker, so I turned at once to your music. It wasn't until I began listening to your songs again, that I found the answer to what's been haunting me for well over a year now.
"If I just let go, I'd be set free."
As I dug more into the lyrics of Heavy, I found you singing about how getting outside of your own head helps you release from the burdens we so often create for ourselves. We can be so hard on ourselves and plant these awful thoughts in our own minds, that without the help of others can be hard to let go. You've encouraged me to once again remember that there are others supporting me on this journey. That even in what seems like the darkest times, we can lean into others for help not just with getting by, but with conquering the pain through love.
While for a moment the darkness in your life overcame, I can now sense a vibrant light shining through, just as it always had before. You may no longer be with us, and some of that shadow may never pass, but your music and voice will always continue to live on and inspire hope in all of us who need it most.
With love over pain,