Shadow of the Morning
Shadow of the Morning
An Essay by Chapin Langenheim
The girl who introduced me to music that is not Nickelback was a compassionate human being, compassionate enough to understand that I had a bizarre liking for Nickelback. I grew up listening to the music my parents listened to, and the angriest music they listened to was Nickelback, therefore I, as an angry teenager who really needed an outlet, listened to Nickelback. In fact, I listened to the radio edit of “This Afternoon” on repeat for so long that when I listen to the uncensored version these days, the part where Chad Kroeger sings ‘bong’ (which is bleeped out on the radio version) always makes me jump. It’s not ‘bong’. It’s ‘beep’. Goddammit.
So when I finally got tired of listening to Nickelback, as one inevitably does, I asked this girl in my class, who was way more edgy than anyone else in the religious boarding school we attended, if she knew of any bands that were like Nickelback, but who were not Nickelback. She suggested a couple of artists, but the only one I actually listened to as much as I listened to “This Afternoon” was Linkin Park.
Linkin Park got me. Or, more accurately, I got Linkin Park. I may have eventually grown to be the only emo kid in that school, but once I put my crappy Poundland headphones on and played Linkin Park, I didn’t feel like the only emo kid in the world anymore. Later on, I found out that this magical genre called pop punk existed, and while my playlists grew full of Green Day and Paramore, there was always at least one Linkin Park song playing in the mix, too.
Because Linkin Park got me.
Time went on and I left boarding school, left England, moved to the United States, started college. I listened to different artists every single month, it felt like. But throughout, there was this overarching theme of Linkin Park in the background. The people I dated tended to look like Chester Bennington. The song I sang at auditions always ended up being “Iridescent.” When I had to muster up the courage to report the man who raped me, I listened to “Shadow of the Day” throughout the hours I sat waiting outside the police detective’s office. Because if you have to convince yourself that there is no solution to being raped, and that saying goodbye to the idea that you can work it out, that you can forgive him, is the only way, you might as well do it with a beautifully eerie Linkin Park song playing, right?
For so many of us, Chester Bennington, the frontman of Linkin Park, was more than just a vocalist of this band we listened to in high school. He was the man who went with us to talk to police detectives after we were raped. He was the man who sang us to sleep, and the man who woke us up. He gave our pain some sort of beauty. He gave us the thought that we can make something beautiful with our pain. He may not have been able to give us answers. But he gave us a friend so we wouldn’t be confused alone. He was our friend.
Hearing the news of his death wasn’t jarring, wasn’t shocking. It wasn’t anything. Reading the articles that said he was dead wasn’t anything. I looked at article after article which said he wasn’t alive anymore, but I didn’t read them. I couldn’t process them. Finding out he died was like finding out Santa died. How on earth could Santa, or Chester, be dead? It just didn't make sense. It doesn't make any sense.
Chester was always very open about his struggles with depression, substance abuse, and being a survivor of sexual abuse. But we as humans don’t want any of those things to be real, let alone make sense. And we as humans tend to look for ways to put ideas into tidy little boxes so that we can see them in a way that makes sense. Sometimes the hardest part of grief is when you realize there is no way to make sense out of any of it. You can see the outpouring of love and support for Chester online, but you can’t make sense of how a man who was so loved could be in so much pain. Pain, however, doesn’t want to look at you and put you into a tidy little box. Pain is just pain. It’s not something anyone deserves, or asks for, or is immune to. It just is. You can’t make sense of it.
But there is a way to make sense of love, and of the fight to live. When you’re grieving and in pain, the only way to let the thing that doesn’t make sense not take hold of all of you is to hold on to the things that o ake sense. So the day that Chester Bennington died, I cried for a good long time. I got some sleep before work. I ate good, healthy food. I cried some more. I told my partner I love him. I listened to music, and talked to my best friend. I went to a meeting, and talked about art, and drank a smoothie. I got in my car and drove down the road next to the beach. I listened to “Shadow of the Day” while I watched the sun set for Chester. I did things that made sense.
I stay up all night for reasons beyond my control (e.g. I work the graveyard shift), and you’d think that in doing so, I’d see a lot of sunrises. I don’t, in fact, see a lot of sunrises. I look up one minute, and it’s dark outside, and I look up the next minute, and boom – sunshine, daisies, butter mellow. And after doing this same routine over and over, I can safely tell you that I don’t know when, exactly, the sun rises. I don’t know when morning happens. But it comes. It does come. Morning comes. The sun starts to shine. Nights don’t last forever, and there’s a limit to how much darkness the world can stand. Do I know what that amount is? I don’t. But I know it comes.
Wait long enough, and morning will come.
The sun may set, but the sun can also rise for you.
Chester Bennington: March 20, 1976 - July 20, 2017