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Leonard Cohen writes to ‘So Long, Marianne’ muse just before her death

Canadian Leonard Cohen performs during a concert on Sint-Pietersplein in Ghent, on August 12, 2012. NICOLAS MAETERLINCK/AFP/GettyImages

Singer/songwriter Leonard Cohen wrote a poignant letter to Marianne Ihlen — who Cohen often called his “muse,” and who he wrote about in So Long, Marianne and Bird on a Wire — just before her death.

Ihlen passed away from leukemia on July 29 in Norway at the age of 81.

The Hallelujah singer and Ihlen met on the Greek island of Hydra during the 1960s, and they became lovers and remained together for the next seven years.

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Jan Christian Mollestad, a documentary filmmaker, informed Cohen of Ihlen’s ill health and the legendary singer-songwriter responded two hours later with a letter, which Mollestad 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 CBC Radio of the letter.

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“‘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.'”

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Mollestad went on to say: “Only two days later she lost consciousness and slipped into death. 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.”

Leonard Cohen’s verified Facebook page also marked Ihlen’s death with a series of written tributes from her friends and a letter written by Mollestad 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.

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Marianne Ihlen’s funeral was held in Oslo, Norway on Friday.

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