The late Leonard Cohen once wrote a touching final letter to his muse, lover and friend Marianne Ihlen, upon hearing that she was dying. He told her “we are really so old and our bodies are falling apart and I think I will follow you very soon.”
Cohen met Ihlen on the Greek island of Hydra in the 1960s, and though he would go on to have several other relationships that would bring him children and grandchildren, she stayed in his heart.
Ihlen’s close friend Jan Chrstian Mollestad recalled that after contacting Cohen “it took only two hours and in came this beautiful letter from Leonard to Marianne.
“We brought it to her the next day and she was fully conscious and she was so happy that he had already written something for her.”
Detailing the contents of the letter, he told Canadian radio station CBC:
“It said, ‘well Marianne it’s come to this time when we are really so old and our bodies are falling apart and I think I will follow you very soon. Know that I am so close behind you that if you stretch out your hand, I think you can reach mine.
“And you know that I’ve always loved you for your beauty and your wisdom, but I don’t need to say anything more about that because you know all about that. But now, I just want to wish you a very good journey. Goodbye old friend. Endless love, see you down the road.’”
Mollestad said that when he read out the line “stretch out your hand,” Ihlen did indeed stretch out hers.
“Only two days later she lost consciousness and slipped into death,” Mollestad added.
“I wrote a letter back to Leonard saying in her final moments I hummed 'Bird on a Wire' because that was the song she felt closest to. And then I kissed her on the head and left the room, and said “so long, Marianne.”
‘So Long, Marianne' was the name of a 1967 song Cohen wrote about her.
Sony Music Canada confirmed Cohen’s death on the singer’s Facebook page, writing: “It is with profound sorrow we report that legendary poet, songwriter and artist, Leonard Cohen has passed away.
“We have lost one of music's most revered and prolific visionaries. A memorial will take place in Los Angeles at a later date. The family requests privacy during their time of grief.”
Cohen put out 14 studio albums during his career and was writing, recording and touring right into his final years.
He was a Companion of the Order of Canada, the nation's highest civilian honour, and his influence continues to permeate modern music.
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