Adam Cohen's message on the death of his father, Leonard
November 12 at 10:44pm
· My sister and I just buried my father in Montreal. With only immediate family and a few lifelong friends present, he was lowered into the ground in an unadorned pine box, next to his mother and father. Exactly as he’d asked. As I write this I’m thinking of my father’s unique blend of self-deprecation and dignity, his approachable elegance, his charisma without audacity, his old-world gentlemanliness and the hand-forged tower of his work. There’s so much I wish I could thank him for, just one last time. I’d thank him for the comfort he always provided, for the wisdom he dispensed, for the marathon conversations, for his dazzling wit and humor. I’d thank him for giving me, and teaching me to love Montreal and Greece. And I’d thank him for music; first for his music which seduced me as a boy, then for his encouragement of my own music, and finally for the privilege of being able to make music with him. Thank you for your kind messages, for the outpouring of sympathy and for your love of my father.
Message from the blogger known as Ann Diamond
Although I knew it had to happen someday, I wasn't prepared to hear the news last Thursday night, as I sat reading about Donald Trump's victory in the US elections. First it arrived as a text from a friend but I didn't believe it. A minute later another text arrived, and another, and then there were links to Leonard's Facebook site and Rolling Stone. That's when I started thinking it might not be a hoax after all. Finally, CBC's Peter Mansbridge made the announcement and nothing could be more final for a Canadian. In my shock I received an email Inviting me to talk about him early the following morning on CTV Toronto. I was grateful for the chance to say goodbye. Over the next 24 hours, I got two more requests to talk about Leonard from the perspective of someone who had known him.
I knew parts of him. Death seemed to unify the parts and bring them closer. It was like being back at Zero, where birth and death are one. Or like the shock of our first meeting.
Later I learned he had died on Monday, November 7. I need to check my journal but I believe we met on that day, 39 years ago, 11/7/1977. If accurate, that would be eerie. Thirty-nine is three times thirteen, the number of years I lived next door to him. When I was 39, he took my photo and said "Now you look very much like yourself." That was 26 years ago, or 2 x 13. And I was 26 when I met him so that's lots of thirteens.
In fact I owe my life to Leonard Cohen. That is a fact he never mentioned, as it would have been too traumatic, but it ran in the background of our friendship even through the years when we were no longer on speaking terms. Like many things that are true, it can probably never be proven, but it seems appropriate to mention it here.
That plus the fact that I will miss him, although these days he's hard to miss, being everywhere. He was like no one else, and now that he's gone, there is even less chance that he can be replaced. Let alone captured.
So now we can go on missing him, forever.
I've been shooting phone videos of the crowd at Leonard's house opposite the park. I used to live around the corner, for 13 years, so it seemed like the normal thing to do. It was my old neighbourhood too.
On Wednesday I ended up at the fresh grave on Mount Royal -- I hadnt intended to go there but all my appointments were mysteriously cancelled and I had nothing better to do than climb to the cemetery, a half hour walk in mist and drizzle. At the grave site, three people were standing looking down at a fresh patch of sod, two plastic-wrapped bunches of wilting flowers and a drooping white rose -- forbidden in Judaism and probably left there the day before by unsuspecting Catholics. The three visitors all spoke French. One said "This empty space is really in the image of Leonard."
Someone had pinned a poem to the sod with a rock, in what looked like Leonard's handwriting, describing a wonderful conversation they had and how he 'understood'. There were about two dozen small rocks on the headstone, which was blank, not yet inscribed with his name. I said I had known him personally. The taller man left, and the remaining couple started taking photos of each other beside the modest plot. They offered to take mine. I forgot to look sad -- in fact I look deliriously happy -- this is how farewells affect me. After the couple left I hung around in the fog for about an hour. Leonard's barely noticeable grave directly faces another belonging to someone named "FRAID." I sat on the base of FRAID's tombstone but couldn't think of much to say except "Sorry."
I can't understand why there was no actual funeral. When his friends Pierre Trudeau and Irving Layton died, Leonard became pallbearer. I think people were expecting a procession or motorcade, and a huge crowd at Paperman's funeral home. Instead, nothing happened. They say he wanted it that way. He died suddenly in his sleep after a fall before dawn on Tuesday morning (of the election). They shipped the body to Montreal. There was a report that he was already buried before his death was announced on Thursday evening, but his son Adam issued a statement the following Saturday in which he said they had just come from the cemetery. The Globe and Mail wrote that only 15 close friends and relatives attended.
If this all sounds a bit strange, it's because it is.
In lieu of any public ceremony or state funeral, Leonard's house has become an outdoor shrine with hundreds of flowers and candles filling the sidewalk opposite the little park where there was an impromptu concert last Saturday.
Death is not what it used to be. Death is exactly like birth and triggers a simultaneous expansion and contraction that erases conscious thought. We are back at the moment before anything has begun to be spoiled.
Followers of the way, don't be fooled. As Leonard once said, "Nothing is always happening."