Leonard Cohen penned an emotional final letter to Marianne Ihlen, the woman who inspired his “So Long, Marianne” and “Bird on the Wire,” just days before her July 29th death, Ihlen’s friend Jan Christian Mollestad revealed to the CBC.
According to Mollestad, after he informed Cohen of Ihlen’s looming death from leukemia, the legendary singer-songwriter-poet responded two hours later with a “beautiful” letter, which Mollestad then read to Ihlen.
“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,” Mollestad told the CBC of Cohen’s letter.
“‘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.'”
Two days later, Ihlen “lost consciousness and slipped into death,” Mollestad said. Her funeral was held Friday in her native Oslo, Norway.
Cohen met Ihlen in the Sixties while vacationing on the Greek Island in Hydra; he ultimately invited her and her infant son to live with him in Montreal. Ihlen and Cohen remained together for the next seven years, with their relationship serving as Cohen’s inspiration for Songs of Leonard Cohen‘s “So Long, Marianne” and “Hey, That’s No Way to Say Goodbye” and Songs From a Room‘s “Bird on the Wire.”
Cohen’s verified Facebook page also remembered Ihlen with a series of written tributes from her friends and Cohen biographers as well as a letter Mollestad wrote to Cohen informing the singer of Ihlen’s death.
“Your letter came when she still could talk and laugh in full consciousness. When we read it aloud, she smiled as only Marianne can. She lifted her hand, when you said you were right behind, close enough to reach her. It gave her deep peace of mind that you knew her condition. And your blessing for the journey gave her extra strength,” Mollestad wrote.
“In her last hour I held her hand and hummed ‘Bird on a Wire,’ while she was breathing so lightly. And when we left he room, after her soul had flown out of the window for new adventures, we kissed her head and whispered your everlasting words: So long, Marianne.”