Jesse Leach’s Check Your Head: “Its Always Darkest Before The Dawn”

Jesse Leach's Check Your Head

Times of Grace and The Empire Shall Fall frontman Jesse Leach is back again with his second “Check Your Head” column. This week, he offers a moving tribute to a dear friend.

This past week has been very intense. A close friend of mine took herself out of this world. Without a word to anyone around her. No cry for help, no explanation…she is gone. These next few paragraphs are for her and the many she left behind who mourn her loss. (I purposely did not name names out of respect for peoples’ privacy)

The day I met her, I knew she was not an average person. I met her at a party I threw at my house back in early 2004. We talked about her love for Gwar and punk “riot grrrl” music as well as her views on the role of woman in society. She was intense and full of life. She turned me on to new music and art. She was also an amazing seamstress. She had a different view of this world than anyone I knew. She also happened to capture the heart of one of my best friends, ensuring we would have much more time to connect.

I watched as her relationship with my best friend went through peaks and valleys; we spent many weekends all together (my wife and friends) over the past few years. There were no signs of depression or any hint that she was on the verge, or the edge of a breakdown. I myself suffered a great dark time in my life and in all honesty, 2009 was the darkest year of my life and brought me to a point where — to me — the thought of dying was a growing alternative to dealing with the pain and anxiety I was suffering. However, by the grace of God, I reached out to many people…including her. She was there for me and many other people, to talk or give her own personal insight as to what a solution or the issue at hand was. So as I type this, I still ask “why”…why did she not reach out to any of her many friends that she helped over the years. Why did she not use all of the passion she had to fight for herself and her happiness.

I did not shed a tear at the wake or the funeral this past weekend. I almost felt like, “What is wrong with me? Am I avoiding my feelings and not mourning? I felt an overwhelming sense that time has stood still; it was unreal. I walked up to the open casket and gazed on the shell she left behind. The make-up was so thick on her, she looked like a mannequin. I knelt down and said my prayers for her family and my friends who were mourning her. Just before I finished, I looked at her and under my breath said, “Why didn’t you talk to anyone?” I stood over my wife as she knelt down and sobbed before the casket. I felt the lump in my throat swell — I felt sick standing there. I was imagining she would sit up and laugh at everyone who was in the room at this “traditional” funeral. I thought if she had her way, this funeral would be so different without all the tradition and stuffiness of this funeral home…but she didn’t give us a choice…

As the ceremonies commenced the next day, I just stood there, taking it all in. Her father spoke about her life, who she was and praised her for her uniqueness and strength. One of her relatives, (perhaps her cousin, my memory escapes me who, exactly) sang a beautiful gospel song. Beneath the melodies were the sounds of quiet sobbing and sniffling. Again, I felt like time was in “slow motion” and it took all of my focus to remain in the moment and be present. I had to remind myself why I was there; I had to remember my friend was dead. It all seemed like a dream or a movie.

As the funeral procession of about 75 cars slowly made it’s way through the town to the cemetery, I felt a sense of deep sadness and anger. “All of these people came out to mourn your loss,” I said to her in my head. “Any one of them would have done what ever they could to remind you of how important you were.” We all gathered around the casket, drowning in flowers under a blue autumn sky. The clouds were drifting by like lazy minutes and again, I found myself in this “time warp.” The words of the minister were almost muffled, as if he were talking in another room with the door closed. I found myself looking up to the sky, watching the clouds drift by and hearing the guitar line from Pantera’s “Hollow” play in my head. It all came crashing down on me and I looked around at all the people she left behind. We would have to figure out how to deal with her absence in our lives one way or another. I kept looking over at all my friends as they wiped tears or hung their heads low.

Before I knew it, people started to dissipate and the sound of car doors and engines starting filled the air. I thought, “This is it. This is real. She is gone.”

So I say to you, reading this: You are not alone in this world. If you are depressed or suicidal, talk to someone! If not your parents, then your friends — a relative. Even just a random person who will listen (like a suicide hot line). You will be amazed at the relief and clarity you can get from just simply talking about what you feel or think.

This life is fleeting and beautiful, with so many possibilities. There are ways to start your life over or heal from a traumatizing situation. God is real; he does love you regardless of how much we humans confuse, berate or dismiss his existence. We all come from different places and walks of life, but we all need to be loved or feel like we have a place in this world. If you have a friend who is suffering from any sort of depression, reach out to them, let them know you are here for them. Show love to those you care for and tell them how you feel, it may be your last chance to help them.

Thanks for reading.

Don’t forget to sign up for the Gun Shy Assassin Newsletter, and be entered into a drawing for a Black Dahlia Murder skateboard deck, autographed by Gun Shy Assassin scribe Trevor Strnad. Just head to the top of the page to sign up.

…and make sure you check out Autopsy drummer Chris Reifert’s column Psychotic Drivel and Perfectly Reasonable Insanity.

If you enjoyed this post, please consider leaving a comment or subscribing to the RSS feed to have future articles delivered to your feed reader.
About Jesse Leach

Jesse Leach is the dynamic frontman for Killswitch Engage, Times of Grace and The Empire Shall Fall. He also spent time with Seemless. The Empire Shall Fall’s album Awaken is in stores now, as is Times of Grace’s Roadrunner debut, The Hymn Of A Broken Man. Of course, Killswitch Engage have a new album in stores called Disarm The Decent.

  • http://www.facebook.com/Mkmiles Michael Miles

    You are truly an inspiration to us all. Thank you for sharing with us each week. I love this piece alot and i find alot of comfort in it. I cannot wait to see what you have for us in the coming weeks.

  • Ren Z

    Our friends and family are one of the best supports we have, specialy when the sorrow appears to consume all of our breaths. The death is always an option… But you will have to pass harder steps in the next phase… Its the Law of Karma… The worst option is to kept your suffering without expresing it, cause you will fall into confusion and illusions… Sometimes the unique option is to find air and breath in other people, who can act like a glass to us, and give us a clearer image of where we are… And that we are never alone, our roots will never die, even if we choose the path of “death”…
    (Sorry for my english, Im from Chile, South America)
    Peace, Love, Respect.

  • Pingback: Times of Grace Vocalist Checks in With His Latest ‘Check Your Head’ Blog at Gun Shy Assassin… | Daily Heavy Metal News

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Kevin-Alarcon/1224807839 Kevin Alarcon

    Pepole have to realize that the world it’s beautiful, there are so many things to see, so many emotions to feel, so much love to give. There is a world who one can truly find happyness and it’s in front of or own eyes. We are so lucky to be alive man, and it is our task to help each other to see this wonderful world.

    (Sorry for my english, I’m from Chile too)

  • VIP

    I’m sorry for your loss. That was a very beautiful post, Ty for sharing. God is Love

  • Viking

    What you’ve laid down here, is how I felt when my brother took his life. Admittedly I was never really close to him,
    but I always looked back and thought to myself ‘If only I could of got through to him’. My parents live with that guilt
    everyday, and they’ve been different ever since. But I remember the good times and I have to move on, or else that guilt would
    taken a grip of me, just like it did with my parents.
    My entire family broke down, and there was only me and my sister to carry the burden of sorting out the funeral and other arrangements, simply
    because no one else had the strength to do it. It was tough, and it opened my eyes to alot of things that only someone who has gone through this
    will know. It changes you.

    Now I just try to help others the best I can no matter what they are going through. To me, when my brother died, it feels like
    its a constant reminder to live life everyday, and help those who feel like they cannot carry on, even when my friends are going through
    simple problems, I always try and sling my arm over them and protect them and help them.
    They dont see that, but I do, and thats all that matters, helping those who are in need.

  • http://twitter.com/Eric_Kanavathi Eric Kanavathi

    Great story, Jesse!! I’m sorry for your loss.. Hope that she’s in a better place now :( God bless, take care & keep doing your thing!!

  • Her Dad

    Jesse,
    Thank you for this wonderful tribute. I’m sure she would have loved it. A piece of me died that day and I know I will never be the same. I might carry on, but I’ll never be the same as when she was here. I miss her so, so much.
    Her Dad

  • http://www.facebook.com/richardlane90 Richard James Lane

    Jesse, if not in the immediate future – please make a point to at least consider writing a book. There are so many that need to hear what you have to say, but your words aren’t always accessible to many.

  • Ryan

    This is not what I expected when I opened this article, but it is exactly what I needed. I suffer from depression myself, and these words really encouraged me. Thank you for this Jesse