On December 18 of 2017, Kim Jonghyun was found dead, coal briquettes next to him. The carbon monoxide gas gave him a painless death in minutes, incomparable to the pain he felt for years.
I was not a fan of Kim Jonghyun, except for a few songs that I listened to when I felt sad. The last time I listened to his music was just the day before, a boost of motivation before finals. When I woke up the next day, I was shaken, still able to hear his voice echoing in my head.
I could only feel unbearable grief. The only time I felt such melancholy was in eighth grade when one of my loved ones passed away from leukemia. I tried to tell myself that Kim Jonghyun wasn’t worth it. You have finals tomorrow, I reminded myself. He was never really your idol. Why are you wasting time feeling sadness for someone else?
I tried to keep my mind off of him by cramming my brain with calculus equations and formulas, trying to dissipate the news with numbers. I spent hours staring at computer and test books. But I couldn’t shake off the terrible feeling. I went through every one of my finals trembling, thinking about how his doctor told him his depression was his imagination, how the security monitored him dully when he pled for help for the last time, how the police came two hours late.
How he wrote songs for others that were meant to lift them up, but he never wrote words for himself. How he fought for the marginalized, yet only receiving malice. And through it all, he shouldered every burden and kept it inside him until he finally exploded.
I tossed and turned in bed every day for almost a week. I could not find myself sleeping, studying, practicing, the actions that were so much like habits in daily life. I wondered for hours each day, when will I forget about him? It was until after my finals were over when I found out the answer was right in front of me: I won’t.
But I accepted that it is a good thing that I don’t get over it, because that day was a grim reminder of what we as humans are capable and incapable of.
We are capable of tearing each other down. We are capable of ignoring others because we are always rushing to our next destination. We are incapable of seeing people outside our own bubble because we don’t know them.
But what we are also capable of is bringing each other up. We are capable of feeling sadness for others. We are capable of being the person who pushes others out of darkness. Jonghyun did it.
And I could do it too. I could cry for Jonghyun, his accomplishments and his tragedies. I could cry for a stranger, just a face on television, an article on Wikipedia, because people are manufactured to support each other. I could love others for their existence rather than their familiarity. I could fight for the struggling for their crisis and not for their name.
Lastly, we are capable of learning from our mistakes. We failed Jonghyun, who loved the world more than anyone else. The next time we ignore a plea for help, we will truly fail as a human race.