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  • Ronda Wicks Eller

RIP Leonard Cohen

Leonard Cohen

As accolades and expressions of grief to/for the great man Leonard Cohen have been pouring across my Facebook News Feed and Twitter stream from around the world since last night, I’ve been here in my humble little one-bedroom apartment trying to shake off some fairly overwhelming feelings. I’ve had to ask myself why I am experiencing such great sadness over this when I'm not even a ‘groupie’ type of person and, why I felt such a strong, initial shock over the news? He was 82, not 28 and he was battling cancer so, without trying to sound callous, death is pretty much expected when a person reaches that age and his disease made it all the more likely. That his final record sounds pretty much a final 'Goodbye' ought to have flagged this expectation, alas, Leonard was writing that type of song decades ago too, just not always so overtly.

I believe there were a combination of factors that impacted me… and I will endeavour to explore them here, hoping they make sense to the reader by the time I’m finished.

Leonard never made himself my legend, he made himself my friend; not only in what he wrote and sang but in how I came to understand his life and the natural muses we shared. I grew up hearing his songs, bought The Favourite Game to watch in the 90s and listened to poet-friends rave about him from time to time but that was it. Then, about six months ago, I became more interested in his life and from that point began absorbing more of Leonard. His music has serenaded me through many prolific hours (while writing both my poems and novels) since then.

Still, what happened to me yesterday was greater than that…

On October 19th, I added a dream journal entry about a walk we took together in a woods and the conversation we had at that time. We promised to make our out-of-body meet-ups a regular thing, we philosophized on pet topics and we confirmed previous associations between us. I called him by a 'spirit name', which I will never reveal and he called me by mine. We didn't call it such but we discussed what people refer to as 'twin flame' connections - leaving our own connection undecided with regard to those parameters.

On October 21st, I added an entry to my dream journal. LC was in the dream. We were washing windows and singing together but the window suddenly came between us; we were on opposite sides. I attributed our singing together and his entry into the dream as having been caused by the fact that I fell asleep with his music playing, and it likely was. In the wake of his death yesterday, I now see the window as ‘the veil’ that divides him and I, and I am left to muse over whether or not that dream was actually a foreshadowing.

But my experience goes further:

In response to all of the negative fallout from the American election that was turning my Facebook News Feed into a pit of doom, gloom and despair since November 8th, I turned to Leonard and the music I enjoyed so much for a salve. When “Passing Through” began to play and I started grooving with it yesterday, I decided it would be a good song to post, along with its lyrics, on my FB profile – to remind people that life is transient and all things associated with it are too. I stayed away from FB for the next two hours and returned to my writing but I just couldn't find my way back into the next chapter so I followed an urge to turn two photo poems into postcards using my graphics program. They were “Sweet Refrain” and “The Fist”. “Sweet Refrain” was written on Leonard Cohen’s birthday, September 21st of this year and has its own little back-story. In some way, after it was finished, I felt it was written to him and so I joined his Facebook page the following day to post it there among the thousands of other well wishers. “The Fist” was written September 30th, inspired after reading / watching interviews with him about his time spent in the monastery. I went so far as to see if I could find a postal address for him when I had the postcards finished and so I frittered away a few minutes on the Internet doing searches before deciding that if I printed them, I’d simply jot him a short thank you note for the inspiration he’d given me and post it to whatever record label address I could find that would have a forwarding address.

I took a break and returned to Facebook. The first post on my News Feed, a “highlighted post”, was the Leonard Cohen page announcing his death, followed by a flood of other posts about him by friends. “Closing Time” was in the middle of queuing in my media player’s play list and then it started up automatically. My fingers screamed to turn off the song, keenly aware of its metaphoric value, while my mind argued that it came on naturally so I should leave it alone and my heart cried out with a need to hold it as closely as possible. Did I feel like there was another force responsible for all of it? You bet! How could I not? It seemed as if a giant scoop of me had been saying goodbye for quite a while and I’d been too dense to realize it until it kicked me in the teeth.

I have to say that I never met Leonard Cohen personally but it doesn’t really matter. When one spirit reaches out to touch another and both are willing to engage, the physicality of being isn't important. I was already intimate with Cohen’s spirit, we engaged each other at regular intervals on a metaphysical level... in our secret lives, but I never identified who he was in this world until I felt his sudden absence. From the day he died until the day that his death was announced, I was in an agitated and disturbed mood, without knowing why. Last night and so far today I've been a mess of tears and I suspect it will continue a while yet... and I am NOT a person who cries at the death of people I am not intrinsically bonded to.

I know the subject of the narrative in your song isn't me but do I want it darker Leonard? No, I'm not ready for the Nameless to kill my flame quite yet and I don't want it darker between us either; as for the spiritual connection between us, I welcome its deepening.

Rest In Peace

(I still have some windows to wash)

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