I had a grueling case of insomnia last night, even for a chronic non-sleeper like me. I awoke at 2am startled, as if something bad had happened, or was going to happen.
I couldn’t shake that feeling of dread, a foreboding that something wasn’t right in the world. I took to social media to post a few whiny words regarding my insomnia, stewed over the latest Trump fiasco and tried, unsuccessfully, to sleep.
Slumber never came, but that dread did. After dragging myself out of a daze of exhaustion, my local news informed me that Chris Cornell died. Even worse, his death was soon ruled a suicide.
Ugh, here we go again. I hate it when I get so worked up over this stuff, but pop culture is the world I dwell in and the untimely death of rock stars hurts. Chris Cornell was 52 years old and in my view of life and suffering, 52 is too young to die and too old to be burdened by such sadness.
I could trace my life with these bouts of depression over a famous person’s death. In 1993, I was recovering from a night of Halloween hijinks at UMass Amherst to wake up to news of River Phoenix’s death. A few months later, Kurt Cobain’s death plunged me into a downward spiral that I lived in for months. And, let’s not forget the one that just keeps stinging: Elliott Smith’s death in 2003. What a kick in the heart. I was a recently separated mom on a date with a lawyer. My phone didn’t stop ringing for the whole night from friends and family who knew how much I loved Elliott Smith. I never saw that lawyer again, and I never stopped listening to Elliott Smith.
I want to believe that life gets better, but when a rock star with a family, a sold-out tour, fame and fortune takes his own life at 52, I get scared. I’m a huge Ernest Hemingway reader and I’m always shocked that he killed himself at the age of 62. I want to live in a warm cocoon where 62 is an age filled with walks, grandchildren and dinners out. But, who knows? Is life just always…hard?
What came first? My fascination with suicides or the true fact that so many of my idols have died by their own hands? I don’t know, but the loss feels significant.
In 1991, I saw Soundgarden open for Guns N’ Roses during the Use Your Illusion tour. It was a snowy night in Worcester, Massachusetts and the roads were a mess, but that didn’t stop Axl Rose from starting well over an hour late. Soundgarden opened and I was besotted by Cornell’s beauty and voice. So much so, that in between sets I used my mom’s hard-earned money to buy a Soundgarden t-shirt. I proceeded to place that t-shirt on my chair while dancing to GNR and it was stolen. I was so entranced by Chris Cornell that I spent good partying money on a t-shirt, knowing that I don’t wear t-shirts. But they were that freaking good and Chris Cornell’s voice was that intoxicating. I missed the one Lollapolooza that they played because I had mono, or perhaps it was depression, I never did go for the blood test. In my insomniac mind, I like to think I was getting over the death of a famous person.
Rest in peace, Chris Cornell.