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Thank you, Mr. Cohen


7 Minute Read

I stand here in the world without you in it anymore, still reeling from America having put Donald Trump in the White House. When I heard that you’d died on the 7th not the 10th, I couldn’t help smiling at your impeccable comic timing. Thank you for your last joke.

I could just write:

Dear Leonard,

I thank you.

Love
Caroline

It would, in essence, be saying everything. And yet, I do want to add my little voice to the prayers of thanks. A little square in the patchwork or a thread in the weave. So many voices saying thank you.

I received many messages when the world heard you’d died. I found out that way, waking up to the pinging of text messages from beloved friends. Many precious people told me I was their first thought on hearing the news that you had gone.

I am more touched by this, than I can say. The truth is, you can’t really see me without seeing how you live in my bones and blood. I first found your work when I was incarcerated in a psychiatric hospital, aged thirteen. I can’t remember how or why, I had in my possession a small plastic record player and three LP’s. Songs Of Leonard Cohen, Songs Of Love & Hate, and Melanie’s, Candles In The Rain.

They were desperate times. I was preoccupied with suicidal thoughts, but could not carry them through. Something was holding me in the world and I couldn’t bear to be so held. I was angry, frightened and more horrifyingly alone than I had any vocabulary for. You had the words that pierced my soul. I didn’t need to understand all the narrative threads and themes, which I didn’t, but I found an echo of the places I was utterly broken, inside your poetry and inside your voice. You became the thread of some prayer, holding me in this world.

It hasn’t been a breeze. I’ve wasted a lot time fighting with depression, from the complete denial of having any such thing, to the final battles of defense against the truth of having the baseline kind. Surely, I could have some super ups to counter the weight of down?

About the same time as you were reporting your depression was gently slipping out of you, I was finally, after all else had failed, learning to welcome mine. I was discovering the taproot of my own tenderness and you, as ever, were helping me. I have loved you for your exquisite writing, for the particulars of your dear voice, for your grace and humanity, not to mention your wicked sense of humor. But, maybe above all else, I have loved you for your tenderness to the human condition and your compassion for our small endeavors. It is through your body of work that I have come to understand, I am both broken and I am whole.

I know you needed to come back out on the road for financial reasons, but the fact you kept circling the world, long after your bank balance was restored, was something else. That last, grand tour, in several chapters over some years: well, I hope it was as good for you as it was for us. What a privilege of heart, to have been at a handful of those shows. I saw you in London, Brighton, Madrid, Florence and Ghent. I heard you say, more than once: ‘Friends, I don’t know when we’ll meet again… but tonight we’re going to give you everything we’ve got.’

Oh my, how you did. And how much gratitude flowed between the audiences and the stage? And, up on the stage too, as you kneeled before your musicians and bowed and bowed again. We were all thanking each other, from the ravaged and beautiful heartland of intimacy. You sure could make an intimate thing happen in a jam-packed auditorium.

In 2013, I got to meet you in a hotel bar. I was waiting to check in and when I looked up you were sitting a few feet away. I did not think or look before I leapt. As I arrived at your chair, I realized in an almost imperceptible micro beat, that I was intruding. It was too late though, and to be honest, I can’t be too sorry. I got to see you, upon my request to shake your hand, bring yourself fully into presence. No going through the motions, or half hearted, tired gesture for the zillionth fan. You called yourself to attention stood up and took my hand in both yours. You looked at me properly, like that was your only concern in that moment, and graciously received my gratitude for such good company, along the, sometimes treacherous highways and byways of life. Thank you, my dear. You said, in your achingly, familiar voice.

A year later in the summer of 2014, whilst enduring a rather desperate day in my little life, I was compelled to make you a video letter. This was a dreamlike experience, as I recalled afterwards. The evidence remains though, and my rough, technically speaking, badly made film, went out into the world via YouTube. It wasn’t until several months later that I realized you had seen it. I came upon your note to me on Allan Showalter’s website. To know that you took the time, about six minutes in fact, to take me in and receive my love and gratitude, makes me smile. Your response too.

Dear Caroline,

Deeply touched.
More than I can say here.
Thank you.
Love and Blessings,

Leonard

I wasn’t too surprised to hear of your death. Even though you had been perfectly discreet about the details of your illness, it seemed you were near the edge of this world. Your beautiful love letter to Marianne was both cryptic and explicit. Your last album: a love letter and a goodbye, if I ever heard one.

I have wondered on occasion, how it has been for you, to be so loved, by us, the recipients of your blessed work. As your son, Adam, wrote a few days ago – your hand forged a tower of work. You are renowned for your kindness to fans. Friends, as you called us. The paradox of your deep privacy, offset against the naked offering of yourself through the work. You spoke very directly to your people through that doorway. You were such a doorway for me.

Some people have attributed you with godlike qualities. I’m not so comfortable with worshipping my fellow travellers, being by nature more of love and respect sort of girl. I don’t think you liked that kind of adulation much, but regardless, it always seemed to me you were so very human. I think you touched so much in so many, just because you gave sublime poetry to the most universal of human dilemmas. You gave us ourselves. You showed us we are luminous as we stumble along, doing our best and doing our worst. Thank you for your life, and for the discipline and devotion to your craft that is the architecture of that Tower Of Song.

In some ways, I haven’t managed much constancy in my life. Not until more recently anyway, as I have found my way to The Fields Of Kindness. You, though, have been a constant. You have been with me all the way from that corridor floor at the psychiatric hospital. Sometimes I can hardly believe that little girl made it and is now walking towards 60. I wouldn’t have made it without you. I mean that most sincerely, Mr. Cohen. I hear your songs and poetry, even when I am not listening to a device or reading a book. You have infused my life with light, by showing me how to include and even celebrate, the wretched and the wrecked. The light does indeed come in through what’s broken and sometimes the only word on my tongue is, Hallelujah.

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