Leonard has left the building

Some people just know when it is time to leave the party. After 82 years Leonard Cohen passed away leaving a huge legacy of poetry and music that has marked millions of moments of love, of goodbye, of bewilderment and questioning on the human condition.

I first heard Leonard Cohen in 1977 – I was always a late developer on the things that mattered – at a party hosted by Hedd, a workmate I haven’t seen since I left the printshop where we worked together. A confused and lost 17 year old on the brink of marriage, I thought that this was a soundtrack to accompany suicide. But my own feelings of bewilderment and confusion at trying to understand the human condition soon led to meetings with a psychotherapist. We didn’t manage to sort out my childhood traumas but we did spend hours talking about poetry …. Leonard Cohen figured largely in our weekly half hour sessions.

Through his songs, I discovered that my sense of being permanently lost and at a loss were not unique to me – which was a bit of a reassurance really. Passing via Sylvia Plath and Dylan Thomas, I began to make some sense of the world around me.

Still listening to Leonard Cohen, I moved through the usual round of love, loss, and lamentation that accompanies the move from adolescence into adulthood.

Divorce and university followed and again Cohen was there to hold my hand with his words. Words that allowed a sort of cathartic experience, tears that could finally escape and remind me that “there is a crack in everything – that’s how the light gets in.”

My dearest loves have their Cohen song that throws me into flashback..

For the man with the deep auburn hair who showed me I was intelligent and for whom I read Bourdieu and Sartre and tried to be  de Beauvoir,  it was “That’s No Way To Say Goodbye”.  I recognised that the goodbye was inevitable even if the love remained until it transitioned through the various stages of mourning and fighting until I realised that unless I became the ocean I would be seasick everyday. And so I set sail.

My children bring me “Hallelujah”. It was a song I had tucked away in the back of my mind but their love of the film Shrek brought Leonard’s version running right to the front of my heart and even if I hear it on the car radio, I feel the pull of sadness and joy. They are all grown up and I don’t watch Shrek anymore – the empty nest and the passage from mother to crone.

And now the soundtrack is “Dance me to the End of Love”, a song I listen to often in the late evening when my husband and I just are, just being. The words echo what he means to me, in my lostness and even at 56, bewilderment at the human condition…

“Dance me to your beauty with a burning violin,

Dance me through the panic till I’m gathered safely in,

Lift me like an olive branch and be my homeward dove,

Dance me to the end of Love”.

Thank you Leonard. leonard-cohen-hallelujah