Before you read this, I just need to assure you I'm okay (ish). Chris Cornell's death was just very sad for me in multiple ways. This is just me trying to work some of it out in my own head. And I wanted to share that because I know there are others who feel the same way.
What the hell is going on?
Really. I just can't wrap my head around it. I was getting ready to leave for my day job last week when I heard the news:
"Chris Cornell is dead at 52. His death is being investigated as a possible suicide."
I froze. I just completely froze. Just like I did many years before with the suicide death of my first grunge hero Kurt Cobain when I saw the cover of my hometown newspaper. It just can't be real. There must be some mistake. And I cried. Just as I did back then.
But it's not a mistake.
Kurt. Layne. Scott. Shannon. Kristen. Andrew. The list goes on. And now Chris. All gone.
I had to sit on this for a couple of days because I wanted to say something, I just didn't know what. In some ways, I still don't. In addition to the ones I've listed, there's also Michael, Whitney, George, Prince and others. Why are the heroes of my childhood and teen years disappearing from this planet?
For some perspective, let me tell you, I was a grunge kid.
I remember the feeling of hearing the opening guitar of Pearl Jam's "Evenflow" on Mtv for the first time. "What the hell is that?" So brand new and awesome. I was thirteen and I was immediately hooked. From Pearl Jam, then on to Nirvana and Alice in Chains. They spoke to me. They just SPOKE to me. Hell, they were me. They knew me. I was going to move to Seattle the second I turned eighteen, wearing my flannel like a badge of honor.
By the time I heard Pearl Jam for the first time, my mother was on her third marriage. My father left when I was two. My mother divorced her second husband, my adoptive father, when I was ten. She married her third husband when I was twelve. I won't get into it here, but when I turned fourteen, I moved out of my mother's house to live with my adoptive father. The whole time listening to Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains, Soundgarden (then getting darker with groups like Ministry, My Life with the Thrill Kill Kult, and my favorite, Nine Inch Nails) on repeat. Before my mother's third husband, I going to Born-Again Christian church and listened to Amy Grant and Michael W. Smith.
You get the picture.
Some deaths are explainable. Layne you could understand. It was sad, but you could understand it. Kurt also because you could see how troubled he was. You could see his pain.
But Chris Cornell. What the hell? It may be a bit naive of me to say, and I'm just trying to be honest here, but it just felt like he was beyond that. At 52, it seemed like he was out of the, I don't know, danger zone (?), if I can put it that way. At that age, you're wise, you've learned how to cope. How to deal. With the demons, I mean. Chris Cornell, at least from where I'm sitting, seemed like he knew how to navigate life. He seemed so strong. And with his lyrics, so wise.
I know his wife and family want further investigation into his suicide, due to how sudden this was, and the medications he was on, but because of how sudden it was, I just feel a certain hopelessness. I mean, I know none of us make it out of here alive, but do we have to be sad forever? This innate sadness that's always sort of existed for me because of how I grew up, and other life complications like my daughter being born with a rare genetic disorder, is going to be there forever? It's just in me, FOREVER?
Life has roughed me up a bit. I know what that's like. But I've always had this one-foot-in-front-of-the-other approach to life in hopes that the happiness of smoother sailing is around the corner. However, Chris Cornell's tragic death has made me feel like you never can escape the threat of being overwhelmed by the demons. Never. He was an icon, an incredibly talented musician with a beautiful family (and my heart goes out to them) with access to all the mental health services one could imagine.
What hope is there for the rest of us?
PS. I never did move to Seattle. But thanks to Target, I still wear flannel.
Other related resources:
The best thing I've read:
"It's not what you think," by Rich Larson
"It’s Not Just Chris Cornell: Suicide Rates Highest Among Middle-Aged Men," by Mary Emily O'Hara