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Cornell: A Good Man

As said in Southern Gothic literature in the world of Flannery O’Connor, “A good man is hard to find.” A good man was Chris Cornell. A man I have thought of when meeting men in my own life. Eddie Vedder, Chris Cornell, Tom Morello, and many other male artists have served as examples to young girls including myself growing up to learn what a good man is: devoted to family, loving and supportive of his wife, compassionate, motivated, kind, honest, and concerned about giving back to society.

I was first enchanted by Chris Cornell when his band, Soundgarden released the eerily beautiful song, Black Hole Sun. His voice reached ranges I didn’t quite understand at the time, but coveted greatly as with many bands of the nineties decade. I loved every musical journey he took, he was always writing and creating work in various styles. He was not only a creative inspiration, but a person who exhibited gracious character.

What made Chris a good man was not being perfect, it was being human, real, and good-hearted. His imperfections were the epitome of his beauty. He didn’t hide where he had been, what he went through, and how he evolved. I respect the honesty of people, not just their artistry. He has always been involved with his family, giving them the love and time they deserve. Fame didn’t corrupt him away from what was really important in life, he bestowed kindness. Even if when he found himself in dark places, he knew to come out, he knew to get help. Chris also dedicated part of himself to helping others not just with his music, but with his philanthropy. Chris and his wife Vicky started, The Chris and Vicky Cornell Foundation to support vulnerable children. As someone who grew up knowing and now works with children in these delicate and hostile situations, this only made my appreciation for Chris and his family to grow broader. People do not always know what is done behind closed doors, sometimes even when they are open. We often times pay too much attention to the hype of fame and entertainment that we forget people are using their talent and success in other positive ways. While yes, Chris’ music has deeply impacted my life in a wonderfully special way, but his personal contributions to the children of our nation is just as impactful, if not more. Not only has he supported underprivileged children, but he has in addition donated all proceeds from his song, The Promise for the film, The Promise to the International Rescue Committee. This charity responds to humanitarian crisis efforts supporting healthcare, education, and other services to people who come from areas in conflict.

The day Chris died was surreal looking back on it days after. Thursday in the early morning, I awoke an hour or more before my alarm normally goes off. Something inside of me said to wake up and check my phone. The news reports were freshly coming in and I was in disbelief. The first posts I saw were on Instagram, people were posting pictures and messages about him passing. At first, I thought this all was some kind of sick joke, but certain people I follow wouldn’t joke about something like this. I kept seeing official articles and I wanted it all to be a nightmare. I wanted to wake up and everything to be fine. I wanted it to be a mistake, misreporting, wrong person. What I wanted was not true. I cried and cried ugly wet messy tears and blew obnoxiously into tissues. This was a strike all too close to home. It all dawned on me, the day before was all signs and I had not known.

Wednesday, Chris was with me all day in spirit. I was thinking about him while I was at work, how proud I was of his song, The Promise, seeing all of the Soundgarden tour photos and video footage. On my way home from work, I listened to one of my favorite Audioslave songs, Set If Off. I’ve always loved to sing along with him because I could actually keep up. I was enjoying the ride home like he was sitting next to me and were singing along together. Before I went to bed, at 11:29pm I shared a video clip of Soundgarden’s By Crooked Steps. Chris is seen closing the laptop of a young Hipster wannabe musician who relies on just a computer and has no real musical talent which is prevalent now. I share the same frustration Chris does with this new fad of using technology instead of actually knowing one’s craft. It’s not just loving the song, its loving the visual accompanying it and how both together speak volumes. I ended up falling asleep around midnight after posting the video. Little did I know, Chris was leaving the world, fading away as I was falling asleep. It was as though his spirit was fading all day and communicating not just with me, but his audience that night of the show in Detroit. None of use were consciously aware, nor do I believe Chris was aware. They say when you really truly care about a person, there will be signs all around you, there will be a feeling within you, an urgency you don’t quite understand trying to speak to you about what’s happening. The wake up call, hurry up, something is going on!

I didn’t want to explain this to my Mom, she and I had seen the film, The Promise together and I had prepared her for Chris’ song. I told her how amazing it was and how proud I was of his opportunity to be involved with creating something about such an important tragedy in history. She became a fan that day in the theatre. We were the only two left as the credits started and Chris’ voice made its debut over the speakers, sweetly entering our ears, we sat there and listened. I held back tears, I didn’t want my Mom to see me cry, just like Thursday at work, I didn’t want anyone to see me cry. I grieved alone. My Mom found out on her own and texted me at work, I confirmed it all, she was upset as well and more upset and confused when I told her how.

On Friday, Light My Way drove me to work and Be Yourself drove me home. It was like lullabies soothing the ride and emotions bouncing inside my stomach and mind. The tears were welling up in my bottom lids. Later, I met up with my best friend and former college roommate for dinner and to say goodbye as she was leaving for a summer theatre job in New York. We discussed how surreal it was to know the people we spent our lives following and inspired by were all slowly dying. It only reminds me to keep moving, to be strong, and continue helping others.

There will be various opinions on Chris’ death, I do not know what he was exactly going through, but I can tell you I understand the darkness and fight it everyday. To know he is free, is how I grow to accept his death. We connect ourselves with people and our selfish attachment can cloud our vision and make us forget the person who had died is the one we need to be concerned for and knowing they are in a place of relief. We may not like it, I certainly do not, the situation is upsetting, but we cannot change what has taken place. We can only learn from these situations and help people in the future to prevent tragedies as this one. This is hard to accept, Chris, his family, and friends had many events to look forward to, but at some point we have to be thankful Chris fulfilled his destiny of giving beauty to the world. He has been called home. We must have peace in knowing Chris is home. We must understand even though Chris is no longer here, his spirit lives on, and he has planted seeds to bloom and grow amongst this world to bring new hope, talent, success, and peace. He can comfort children in a new way, a way so powerful, I believe every child will be guarded by his spirit. There was a beautiful moment later in the day on Thursday when my cousin’s daughter was taken off her G-Tube and told her condition was improving. I can only believe the strength from Chris helped finish this phase of her recovery.

I wish Chris’ wife and children love and healing. They are impacted more than anyone will ever be, they deserve respect as they endure this painful time. I am 100% in support of Vicky’s statements. I do not want to use this time to go into detail, but I’ve been there, I’ve had friends go through it as well, we need to be careful about the things around us and who and what we entrust our mental health with. Take one day at a time, meditate, practice yoga, breath in and out, smile.

You are free Chris, spread your love, goodness, and wings even wider.

Sincerely,
Johanna Falzone, May 20th, 2017

(The drawing I created in Memory of Chris. I had originally planned for him to be part of the next round of paintings, but after his death, felt it couldn’t wait and I needed something that represented him in a new form. There is also a poem I wrote, titled, Sunlight Filled Bloom, due to not having copyright protections yet, I am currently not sharing it at the moment, but will in due time.)

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