Of all the posts on my blog this is the hardest, saying goodbye to the person who has had the biggest impact on my life.
It all started on August 23rd 2004, when I heard Jeff Buckley singing Hallelujah. All my life music has been my everything, and all my life I was searching, searching for the chords to the soundtrack of my life. There then started a mission to learn more about you and your music. I missed out on a ticket to your concerts in Kilmainham 2008, so my first concert was July 23rd 2009 at what was then The O2 in Dublin. It was such a magical night, the whole audience was entranced. I was so moved by your performance, and by your respect towards your band, all of who were amazing, and knew exactly how to caress your wonderful songs. The impact of that night was immense. I knew my search to find my ultimate artist was over, that I had found the soundtrack to my life.
The following day I decided to see was there a Leonard Cohen Forum, and my oh my, not only was there a forum, with fantastic people, but it was, and is, a treasure trove of information on your work. To this day I still find bits of information, and understanding, that I missed before.
The following year, 2010, was the year my life changed, forever. My love of you, and your songs would lead me to leave Ireland for the first, and second time, and I would meet you for the first time. The defining moment was when I went to see you in Lissadell House. Wonderful, brilliant Lissadell. This concert remains my favourite, even though there have been close contenders to that throne! All yours concerts were spellbinding, and like I once wrote in a review, I felt you hypnotised me. Considering you mastered how to do this as a teenager I am not surprised you have had that effect on me.
People often ask me why Lissadell, what makes that concert my favourite? Well, there are so many ingredients that amounted to perfection: the location, the fact we were sheltered in the spirit of the great master, your words, perfectly described, like only you can.While I do love the work of WB Yeats, you are my great master. During Hallelujah that night I felt my heart was breaking, at the thought I might never again witness the magic live. We knew the tour was ending in December that year, and I had never left Ireland before.
That year my friends, deciding I needed to witness more of our planet, bought me a passport for my birthday. The timing was perfect. I decided I needed to see you in concert, one more time, and having a week off work in October I had a look where you would be, and seeing you would be in Poland, in Katowice, I decided I had to go. Yes, I choose my first trip out of Ireland, to be alone, in a foreign speaking land. I felt compelled to thank you, in a special way, so I designed my flag, and spent many hours, and black markers, colouring in the letters to my message,”Thank you Leonard and Co for the magic & memories of Lissadell”. When you came out for the encores and saw the flag, read my words, and smiled, I felt no moment could ever top that joy for me. It was just the start though. Thanks to your generosity I’ve had many more moments, that are etched in my heart, and that bring me such comfort now my heart is broken. Katowice was also the concert where I took my all time favourite photo, the one of you holding the rose.
After Katowice, and with only a few weeks to the final concerts in Las Vegas, and me with an empty bank balance a friend planted the idea, imagine going to Vegas, and being there for what we thought would be your final concerts. I decided to apply for a bank loan, and to let that decide if I could go. I didn’t really need any other persuading, and a kind friend helped me with the cost.
Those concerts were sublime, I did a lot of crying, and laughing, and crying. I had one wish, to meet with you, to say a personal thanks for how you had changed my life. That dream came true on December 12th. The day I learned dreams can come true. While you signed some special items, including my flag, and the lyrics of Hallelujah I told you your songs and poetry caressed my soul. You seemed moved by this. After you walked away, and then returned to us, I told you of how on your birthday that year, we placed a plaque at a Canadian maple tree, planted in your honour in Lissadell, by Forum members. I was stunned to see tears in your eyes. You were so humble and kind.
The timing of the 2012 tour was perfect for me, and I was blessed to be in a position to attend a number of concerts. The first two were the opening two concerts of the tour in Ghent. By this time I had a huge circle of friends, and connections, due to my love of your music, and it was through this I was offered a place to stay. The day of the second concert we took our host for lunch at the hotel where you were staying, and I couldn’t believe my luck when we saw you approaching. Being able to speak with you again was so amazing. The fact you remembered me from Las Vegas made it all so much more special.
Next up for me was a the 4 concerts in Kilmainham. After having to miss the 2nd Lissadell concert I had vowed I’d never miss one of your concerts on our island again. Being outdoor concerts meant we could listen to soundcheck. I loved your soundchecks. They were longer than most other artists concerts! I had come with gifts for your birthday, and was very happy to be able to give them to you before the soundcheck for the second concert. I’d almost forgot to give you a saints bracelet I had in my pocket for you, but thankfully I remembered! Again you were touched by my kindness, but I could never thank you enough for YOUR kindness.
It was on the following day, a day off from the concerts that I had the idea to give you roses before the final Kilmainham concert. I waited patiently to speak to you, wanting everyone else present to have the same wonderful memories that I have, and not wanting to take that moment from anyone. When you turned to me and said “now Gwen” I nearly died and went to heaven. While I knew you remembered me I was so moved you remembered my name. I gave you the roses, thanking you for everything. What you did next is still moves me to this day. You put the roses on the stage for the entire concert. I cannot put into words the impact of seeing them there, and watching you perform with them behind you. Every concert I attended brought tears, but this one brought an avalanche of them!
When the 2012 tour was announced, there was one location above all others on my wishlist, and that was Montreal. I didn’t even have to consider it, as soon as it was announced I was going. To witness you in your hometown, and to see your hometown was another dream come true. Those concerts were so special, as were the two the following week in Toronto. I call the Toronto concerts my Hallelujah concerts because of the dates, the 4th and 5th of December. While in Montreal we made the pilgrimage to your childhood, and adult homes, the Parc du Portugal twice, because of your painting First Snow. Serendipity meant the first snow of winter 2012 in Montreal happened when we were there. While in Toronto we spent a few hours reading from your archives. A privilege not granted to many, and one I am grateful for.
New York was another dream, and in a rare moment of being sensible, I refrained for your concert at Madison Square Garden in 2012. That rarity went out the window when the concerts at Radio City Music Hall were announced, and it was an almost immediate decision that we were going! We were only a few hours in New York, and while enjoying a glass of wine, who do we see but you! It had been a hard couple of weeks for the UHTC, with two concerts having to be rescheduled due to band illnesses. We were so relieved when you told us you were ok. The following day we attended a Forum dinner, where your sister Esther was in attendance. What a wonderful lady she was. She told me she was honoured we allowed her be a part of our group. I replied we were the ones honoured to have her company. After the meal we were given access to The Chelsea Hotel. A hotel with such an amazing history, immortalised in your song.
At this moment in time I thought I had one concert left, Brussels the day after my birthday. While disappointed that Ireland wasn’t on the list, I knew we had been extremely lucky already. However Ireland was then added to the list, with two concerts at The O2 Dublin! With this knowledge we headed off to Brussels, and as always an outstanding concert. The following day we were after doing some tourist stuff, and were heading back to our hotel. Coming up an escalator I noticed a burger joint, and suggested we go in. After getting our food and sitting down, I was looking out a gap of a poster covered window, and there outside you were! How lucky could I be! We went outside, and waited patiently for you to finish eating. Never would we have interrupted a moment like that. When you saw us you thanked us for coming. Smiling that wonderful smile. We asked would you mind if we got some photos, and as always you were happy to oblige. You pulled me in close. We spoke about the concert from the previous night, and I told you I had been very happy to hear you recite A Thousand Kisses Deep, because I wasn’t expecting it, since you didn’t normally do it at non-English speaking countries. You told me I was correct, but that you had felt like doing it. I said I was very pleased you felt like that.
And then it was time for what was to be my final concerts. Back in Dublin, and in the venue I had first seen you. I had a feeling it would be the last time I would see you, so I intended to cherish every moment. Serendipity played a role again, and I was blessed to speak to you the day before the concerts, and the day after them. The day before we had more photos and you again pulled me in close. You also signed a few more precious items for me, the most special being a photo of me handing you the roses the previous year. You loved this photo too, telling me you really like this one. You also told me I spend too much money on you. I replied I didn’t but that is only for you that I do.
Friday September 13th: The day I spoke with you for the final time. We normally greeted each other with a hug, but you had your guitar on your back, so this time we couldn’t. Instead you took my hand, holding it close. I thanked you for everything, wishing you well on the rest of the tour, and for after the tour. Your last words to me were “Thank you darling”.
There are so many other memories, and so much more I have to be thankful to you for. Your lyrics, and poetry guide me through life, and in everything I do there is a lyric or a memory that I am reminded of. Birds on wires, rainbows, the moon, the ocean, even chains are just some examples of things that remind me of you. Last year I decided to take up drawing for the first time since leaving school. My favourite subject is you, using the many photos I’ve taken at your concerts for reference.
So Long Leonard: Safe travels on your journey to the other side.Thank you Leonard: Thank you for the memories.
Sincerely G Langford
There is so much more I could write. I’ve wrote this in the style of a letter to Leonard, because it is the only way I could write it, write it as if I were speaking to him. To write a standard tribute is just too painful for me now, and besides, there are lots of those. Many people will know most of what I write here. I think my friend and travelling companion, and who was beside me every step of this journey, Mandy, is the only person, other than Leonard who would know it all. I’ve written it like this so in the hope readers will understand the huge impact Leonard has had on my life, and will continue to have.
I have made many friends, and connections, due to our mutual love of Leonard and his work. You are all in my thoughts. I know some of you have had a much deeper longer connection than I have had. My heart goes out to you all.
My sincerest condolences to Adam, Lorca, and all Leonard’s family and close friends. To all those in the UHTC thank you for all you did for Leonard, and all you did for us. To Jarkko, Marie, and other Forum moderators, thank you too.
So long Leonard, so long.