Leonard Cohen died Thursday at 82 years old. His passing follows that of his ex-girlfriend and longtime muse Marianne Ihlen, who died earlier this year.
Ihlen and Cohen dated throughout the 1960s, and Cohen credited Ihlen with inspiring him to write many of the songs on his first two albums — including, most famously, “So Long, Marianne,” which wistfully instructs its listeners that “it’s time that we began to laugh and cry and cry and laugh about it all again.”
Before Ihlen died, Cohen wrote her a farewell letter, Letters of Note reports. Like Cohen’s songs, the letter is melancholy and funny and sweet, commiserating on old age with the woman he met, as “So Long, Marianne” recalls, “when were almost young, deep in the lilac park,” and assuring her that he will be following after her soon:
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 have 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.
Ihlen’s relatives say she received Cohen’s letter while she was still fully conscious, just before she died at the end of July. Just a few months later, Cohen has made good on his promise to stay close behind.
So long, Marianne, and so long, Leonard Cohen.