Status: For those unaware, for years I've been working on the story "I Wanna Be Somebody" which, coincidently, had a main character who was a cousin of Chester's. The only way to make it through my own grief is to write about hers.

Promises That Never Came

Wash Away the Worst of Me

I hated not being on tour when Isaac was.

Why did he get to go have fun while I was stuck in Brussels? It wasn’t that I didn’t like the Belgian city; I was just turning into an overly dependent wife. When Isaac was gone, I felt like a cripple without their crutch. Oblivion and Jess were in the Netherlands with their kids, Avaalon usually went traveling now that his brother was tied down with a family. Kris and Emi were back in Denmark.

The alone time could be nice. I got plenty of miles in with the dogs on our daily runs. I watched cooking shows, worked on perfecting my Dutch and French so I could venture into other parts of Brussels alone without having a panic attack. I wanted to blend in, not be the pitiful American girl who had to rely on her husband for everything.

I’d grown increasingly attached to Isaac since our shotgun marriage last year. A year. Isaac and I had been married a little over a year already. The thought was slightly alarming when I thought about it. Me married. Misses Isaac Delahaye. God, I missed him.

That was how the day went--me pining for my absent love while I kept myself as busy as possible. I was chopping green peppers for dinner, Nemo, my Doberman, lying near my feet. He lifted his head and became attentive at the table. I stopped and looked at him curiously before following his attention. My phone was lit up, but I’d put it on silent, so I would have missed the call otherwise.

A part of me wishes I hadn’t. Another was glad I didn’t have to hear a voicemail.

Mike Shinoda Calling

My eyebrows crinkled together. I only had Mike’s number in my phone because Chester persisted I do so in case I couldn’t reach him in an emergency. I’d never used Mike’s number and he’d never used mine.

My hyperactive state of paranoia kicked in for a moment. Something must be wrong, but I played it off thanks to my years of therapy. I was overthinking.

“Hello?” I answered.

“River, this is Mike…”

“Yeah, Mike. How are you?”

He cleared his throat and there was a long pause. I heard the crackling of a long exhale. “River, I’ve got...I’ve got some really bad news.” My blood ran cold. I knew it. “Chester...he…” His breath hitched and I was already gripping the counter.

“What?” I demanded, voice cracking. My hand clenched the phone tightly.

“He’s gone.”

My whole body went rigid. “What? What do you mean? What happened?” My voice rose with every word.

“He...he hung himself.”


“River, I’m sorry. I just thought you should know before news got out and--”

“No,” I said again. “No, this...this isn’t happening. No…” Tears burned at my eyes and I sucked in a breath, nearly choking. The walls were closing in. This was some sick joke.

“I’m so sorry…” Mike was crying, wasn’t even trying to hide it anymore.

“No, no, no,” I sobbed, letting myself drop to the kitchen floor. The pain was a cheap, hard blow to my gut. I couldn’t stand at the sudden wave of helplessness overcame me. “No!”

Mike tried to ask me if my husband was there, if I was alone, if I could get someone to be there with me. I hung up on him at some point, unable to answer in my wailing mess. I wanted to keep quiet, didn’t want the neighbors next door or across the hall hearing my anguish. I didn’t want to be comforted.

This wasn’t happening.

He couldn’t be gone. This wasn’t right. I’d only talked to him a couple days ago. He told me he’d see me the next time we were back in the states.

How could he do this to me?

Somehow I’d found the bottle. By the time I’d came out of my hysteria, I was slouched against the living room wall with a Jameson bottle empty and I was nursing Kalevala straight from the bottle. The world was blurred between tears and intoxication. But I couldn’t feel anything in that moment, only a dull throbbing in my chest. I wearily looked around the apartment, only a flicker of surprised confusion crossing my consciousness as I saw the destruction I’d caused. Flipped chairs, shattered kitchenware--I vaguely remember sweeping my arm across the counter--a broken lamp. My knuckles were bloody, throbbing. I looked over to see the wall chipped and streaked with blood.

I crawled over to my laptop which was lying upside down the floor near the couch, laid on my side and turned it on. I slowly, drowsily pulled up the music player and found what I wanted.

The wailing of a distant guitar, followed by synths, then acoustic strumming. I returned to my spot against the wall and took a swig of the Finnish vodka.

“Water gray through the windows, up the stairs...Chilling rain...Like an ocean everywhere…” I closed my eyes when Chester’s voice reached my ears and burning tears fell from beneath my lids, making my face sting more.

I had not felt such heartbreak in a long time.

The songs played on, each one weighing down on me more and more. When the familiar piano intro of “Iridescent” started, I slid onto my side and curled inside myself. The crying returned, the sobbing. The quiet begging that this was all just a horrible nightmare.

“Hey, you know you can call me anytime, right?” Chester said, looking at me pointedly. I nodded slightly. “Anytime. I mean it. I don’t care if you’re in fucking...Lithuania and it’s four o’clock in the morning here. If you’re having a hard time, you call me, okay?”

“Okay,” I said, trying to show him how much those words got to me. He’d stayed in Alaska longer than necessary, making sure I was going to be okay as I committed myself for rehab and therapy.

Chester watched me, looking for signs of I don’t know what. I didn’t want him to go. I’d become reliant on him since he’d picked me up at the airport. I’d left a path of destroyed relationships and emotional torment behind me and to see my cousin waiting for me at Anchorage’s airport to take me home that day showed how much he loved me.

“I know how it feels,” Chester continued.

“I wish you didn’t,” I said, eyes tearing up. “Because it really fucking hurts.”

Chester wrapped me in a hug and held me tightly. “ I know. That’s why I wish you didn’t either.” He rubbed my back when I let out an abrupt sob. “We’ll get through this. You’re strong.”

He pulled away to wipe the tears from my face. “Obviously, not that strong,” I said, glancing at the track marks on the inside of my elbows.

“Sure,” he said. “We may be third cousins, but we’re still related, which means our badass levels are times a thousand.”

I smirked and hugged him again. “Get going,” I said. “You’ll miss your flight back to L.A.” I’m sure the band was missing him working on their next album. I’d asked Chester how they’d top Minutes to Midnight.

“You sure you’ll be okay?” he asked.

“You just said my badass level is times a thousand,” I said.

Chester smiled. “I did. Remember, I’ll always be here for you.”

He was the only member of my family who ever had been. My abusive parents would have nothing to do with me. My brother was in prison. The band had kicked me out after my overdose. Isaac left me after he found out I’d been cheating on him for months. Apart from Mac, my surrogate father figure, Chester was it.

“You promise?” I asked.

Chester nodded. “I promise. I love you, Riv.”

“I love you, Chazz.”

At some point, I’d functioned enough to call Isaac and tell him. Chester was dead. He’d killed himself. He’d left me. He wouldn’t be there for me anymore. The thought was so unbelievably selfish, but I couldn’t help it. When the band wasn’t around, when Isaac and I had been separated, Chester was one of the few that stuck it out with me. He knew the pain and chaos, what it felt like. He knew the level of self-hatred I felt.

I called the rest of my own band, Jess and Oblivion in the Netherlands, Kris in Denmark, Avaa’s voicemail. They all wanted to comfort me and apologize and say things that were meant to be sympathetic. I hung up on all of it. All the while, I was still drinking. After finishing one bottle of Kalevala, I started on another. I booked an airplane ticket to Los Angeles for the following afternoon.

It was all very out-of-body at this point. My traumatized self was distancing myself from the pain again, but at some point, the pain would become too much. I already craved the needle again. It’d take the edge off better than alcohol.

I never slept. I was either drunkenly pacing with a dog following at my heels or sitting, bawling my eyes out. When the taxi came for me in the morning, I stumbled out of the apartment complex, still drunk, and climbed in the cab. The driver tried to make small talk, but I refused to make conversation, only letting him know I didn’t speak Dutch.

“Ik spreek geen Nederlands,” I slurred out and the driver shut his mouth.

I had a drink at the airport bar before boarding. The flight from Brussels to Atlanta would be over nine hours and during that entire flight I listened to Chester’s voice, occasionally pausing to ask the flight attendant for an adult beverage. Otherwise, I was curled against the airplane’s wall, head propped, staring out at the floor of clouds beneath the wings. I dozed for only a little bit, but each time brought on something mentally horrific.

“I tried to kill myself,” I said softly, voice crackling.

Chester was seated on one side of my couch and I on the other, knees under our chins. The sun had long set, leaving the image outside the floor to ceiling windows of my old home nothing, but blackness.

Chester was listening intently. I licked my lips and continued, only looking at the white cat laying across my feet. I couldn’t meet his eyes.

“If Jess wouldn’t have found me when she did, I would have jumped off that overpass,” I said. “I wanted it to end right then. I wanted it to hurt and I wanted it to be as messy and violent as my life had been. I didn’t care if I took anyone else with me...I just wanted it to be over. It was so selfish.”

Chester reached across and his fingers barely grazed my shin. I looked up at him and felt a tear slide down my cheek. “Riv, when you get to that mindset, it's not selfish,” he said. “You were hurting, more than ever before, and I don’t blame you. You’d lost a lot in that short of a time.”

He was referring to within 48 hours I’d lost my boyfriend, my band, and an unknown pregnancy (not by my boyfriend). With all the past trauma and drugs and the mental lows I’d hit, I could not take the pain and I stood on the overpass, ready for it to be done. But Jess had come back and she had managed to talk me down from my death fall.

Now, I sat here with my cousin, the first person I could really explain to how it felt at that moment. The absolute helplessness and mental agony that threatened to make me jump.

I really started crying, then.

Chester got up from his position and pulled me into his arms. I let him hug me, let him hold me while I sobbed uncontrollably. He was the first person I’d let do that in a long time. He never said anything; he didn’t have to. Chester just held me and let me finally break in a healthy way--or the healthiest way I could at that point.

My taxi pulled up to the Bennington house and I had to practically drag my exhausted and hungover self out of the vehicle. I stood at the gates for what felt like forever before I managed to get my feet to move. I pressed the security button and was greeted with a short masculine voice I recognized as Dave’s.

“Dave, it’s River.”

“River? I”ll let you in, one second.”

I was walking up the driveway when the door flew open. Talinda came running out of the house, down the steps and headed right to me. I dropped the bag from my shoulder and met her with open arms. She collided with my body and we hugged each other with such intensity, I thought we’d break our ribs. She was sobbing into my shoulder and I wanted to be strong for her. She was Chester’s beloved wife and I loved her too and I wanted to be strong, but I broke down on her almost immediately and I couldn’t stop.

“H-he loved you so much,” Talinda reassured me in between intakes of breath.

“I know,” was all I could manage. “I-I just...I can’t…”

“I know.”

We got ahold of ourselves long enough to hold each other at arm’s length and looked at each other with absolute pity and sadness. I hugged each of his kids because they all swarmed around me. Jamie, Isiah, Draven, Tyler, and his twin daughters (the youngest) Lily and Lila. Some were holding up better than others. The three youngest called me by “Aunt Riv” and when I heard that I did manage to get control of myself. A hug for each of his band members, one especially for Mike. We held each other longer.

I asked Talinda if I could do anything to make this “easier,” though there was nothing at all easy about any of this. I took the twins out for a while. We went to the park and got ice cream. I’d never been as exhausted as I was trying to keep up a face for those girls. I could not understand what they went through.

My father was the worst human being I’d ever met. Emotionally and physically abusive. He was the root to all my problems today. I’d put him in prison for a few years after finally gaining the courage to stand up to him, but why couldn’t he have offed himself instead? Why couldn’t have been such a shitty father such as himself rather than Chester? Chester was a phenomenal father and human being. Giving, compassionate, broken. He didn’t deserve the pain he felt and his family didn’t deserve it now.

His pain had only been transplanted to them.

I promised myself I’d be there for these girls, for Talinda, and the boys, in every way I could from across the ocean. Shit, for a moment, I considered just moving back to the States.

I couldn’t do that. The country seemed even emptier now that Chester wasn’t around. I thought about myself again and what I couldn’t do without him. I wondered who I would call at 3 in the morning when I was craving. Isaac was my husband, but there were just some things he couldn’t quite understand, things I couldn’t explain that only Chester understood.

We sat on the phone for hours only a couple months ago when my sanity was fraying. He talked me back down and offered to come spend some days with me in Brussels. I told him he didn’t have to and he didn’t. I wish he had. I could have seen him face-to-face one more time.

The following nights were hard. I hardly slept and for sure didn’t unless I knew Talinda was sleeping. I crashed on the couch since Talinda had taken a guest bedroom because she couldn’t dare stay in their room.

I didn’t blame her.

Isaac came after two days of me being in California. Having him there took only a minute piece of stress away. At least I had someone to lean on because I wouldn’t on anyone else. Talinda needed me and I had to stand straight as I could. I helped make plans for the funeral, watched the kids, ran errands, and just was there as a shoulder if she or anyone else needed. By day four, I felt like my own tears had dried up. I could hardly feel anything.

I sat on the back porch, late in the evening, the sounds of the city falling over the lawn walls. The patio door slid open. It was Mike who sat next to me. He offered me a beer and I silently accepted it.

We said nothing to each other while we stared at the brick privacy walls, the really green grass. I wanted to say something to Mike, but I couldn’t think of anything good enough. He’d lost a band member and a best friend. I transferred those thoughts to if I lost Jess in the same way. I couldn’t bear the thought.

“He was really proud of you. You know that, right?” Mike finally asked.

I took a swig of my beer before saying, “what did he have to be proud of me for?”

Mike turned to face me. “Well, by the sound of it a lot.” I looked pointedly at him. “Chester never told me...the details, but it’s not hard to guess.” I looked back at the lawn. “You and him were a lot alike and you both faced your demons. You won, River. You built a life for you and you’re in a happier place now. That’s why he was so proud.”

“He did that too,” I said, shorter in tone than I meant. “He did all of that. He succeeded, he has a family, and yet he lost.”

“Chester told me you were stronger than he would ever be,” Mike went on and I flinched when his voice cracked. “He thought the absolute world of you.”

“Then, why did he leave me?” I almost pleaded, face scrunching up against the tears.

Mike said nothing because he had the same question.

Why did he leave any of us?


The waves of black came for the funeral. Line upon line upon line. I stood off to one side, Kris and Jess on either side of me. By the corners of my eyes, they looked ready to spring in case I collapsed suddenly. I wanted to. Agonizing grief had turned into exhaustion and numbness.

But I had one more duty to give Chester and his family.

Talinda told me Chester always complained that I hardly sang. It wasn’t in my job description. I was a guitarist, not a vocalist. I left that complicated stuff to Jess unless there was a need of clean backings. Talinda wouldn’t let it go. She asked me if I would sing something, anything. She wanted to hear what Chester always talked about so fondly.

Chester made me sing with him when we were younger. It was always for fun, belting out rock tunes in the car as we drove around during rare family reunions. We laid on one of our beds and listened to 8-tracks. I belched out “well, well, well you just can’t tell! Well, well, well my Michelle!” for him more times than I can remember.

He always said he’d get me on stage to sing with him sometime.

It never happened.

But today it would.

I climbed onto the stage after words had been said, with Elvis, my favorite acoustic Gibson. I sat on the stool in front of the microphone provided for me. After all these years on stage, I could hardly look out to the audience. I looked down at my black clad legs before my guitar covered them. Then, I took a breath and looked out onto all the people from the safety of my oval shades. No one would see how dry my eyes were, how red and scratched, how absolutely haunted I looked.

“For you all who don’t know, I’m Chester’s cousin, River Young…” I took a breath. “I’m guitarist for symphonic metal band, Memento Mori.” A distant “woop!” came from the back and I chuckled. “I mention that because it’s important. Because if it hadn’t been for Chester, I might not have found music as an outlet.” Oh, god. My voice hitched. “He was one of the main pillars in my life who get me up and supported me and he never let me down.” Until now.

“So today, I’m gonna play you a song that him and I sang really late one was before it was even recorded, fresh off the paper, but I was in Cali at the time and he called me over and we sang it together in the night. He told me we’d sing it together live sometime.”

I looked up at the sky and felt my face pulling into a pre-sob look. “So I guess this is it,” I said to no one in the audience.

I began strumming out the intro and cleared my throat, hoping that my under-used voice didn’t fail me. Jess stood off the side, a backup if I couldn’t finish.

“Separate...sifting through the wreckage I can’t concentrate…” My voice warbled a little. “Searching for a message in the fear and pain. Broken down and waiting for a chance to feel alive…” I faded out and took a deep breath.

Chester’s voice echoed in my head and it felt so good to hear him. I backed from the microphone and let him filter through me. The raw, untamed power of crackling, rough vocals that would live on through ages to come.

“Now in my remains, are promises that never came. Set this silence free to wash away the worst of me…”
♠ ♠ ♠
The only way to talk about my pain at Chester's loss was to say it all through River.

Rest in Peace, Chester. You are still one of my heroes. I'm sorry we couldn't help you the way you helped us. <3