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Excuse Me For Not Dying: Leonard Cohen at 80

By on September 26, 2014
Leonard Cohen - Javier Soriano-AFP-Getty

I love Leonard Cohen, and his music, passionately. His work has travelled with me for many years.

What is equally interesting is that he has also travelled alongside my very precious ‘Aunt Jan’ my mother’s sister, who is now 90, and was so excited to go to one of his concerts just a couple of years ago.

Leonard Cohen is as ageless as his music and his fans.

My ‘Aunt Jan’ like a mother to me, is who my brother and sister and I stayed with on those school holidays when we were unable to travel back to Ghana, Africa, our home. We  would go and stay with her and her family in Windsor, England the home of the Royals. ‘Aunt Jan’ would definately concur with Leonard Cohen’s words “Excuse me for not dying”.

“Excuse me for not dying.” Those words were said by Joshu Sasaki Roshi, who ordained Leonard Cohen as a Zen monk in 1996. Roshi, who recently passed on at 107, was in his late 90s when he said it. At recent performances, Cohen has said that he now feels that way himself.”
In fact ‘Aunt Jan’ has often said she really wants to leave and join her beloved Robert, but like my mother also said, after my father died and she wanted to leave as well, they come from a ‘long living’ lineage and they may not be able to leave early!

My wonderful grandfather ‘Doods’ William Marlow who recieved the Military Cross in WWI and must have witnessed horrific things, didn’t die until his very late 90’s.

This aspect of longevity when dealing with The End of Life Matters is something we all need to be aware, and caring, of.

As Dr Peter Saul from John Hunter hospital so clearly explains, living longer does not mean more youth, but more old age. This is not always so easy for people who have lost their loved ones or are suffering physically. Maybe Leonard Cohen’s music can speak to us all on this journey?

“Almost Like the Blues,” …went viral on YouTube. It is a new classic, commenting on war and murder, life and death, heaven and hell, turning mordant and ironic with each impeccably sculpted turn of phrase, hauntingly intoned with a Latin tinge.

“Dress Rehearsal Rag,” one of Cohen’s earliest songs—and the one that resonated with Judy Collins, who introduced him to John Hammond, Columbia Records, and all that followed—described plans for a suicide that never happened. 

Now Cohen knows that, no matter how much he disciplines his mind and body, he will eventually have to make preparations for the inevitable, even if he lives as long as Roshi. But, in this new song, which also recently appeared as a poem in The New Yorker, death is not just an actuarial inevitability, it is a poetic theme to be explored, played with, maybe even taunted:”


Photo: Javier Soriano/AFP/Getty

About Trypheyna McShane

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