"Know that I am so close behind you that if you stretch out your hand, I think you can reach mine." Those are among the last words Leonard Cohen wrote to the woman who inspired his songs So Long, Marianne and Bird on the Wire. Marianne Ihlen, known as Cohen's muse, died in Norway on July 29 at 81 years old, the Guardian reports. It was Ihlen's friend, Jan Christian Mollestad, who informed Cohen late last month that she was dying of leukemia. Within two hours, Mollestad tells the CBC, a letter from Cohen arrived. "We brought it to her the next day and she was fully conscious," he says, "and she was so happy that he had already written something for her." Two days later, Ihlen "lost consciousness and slipped into death."
In the letter, Cohen tells Ihlen that he always loved her wisdom and beauty, "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." The pair met on the Greek Island of Hydra in the 60s, per Rolling Stone, and ended up staying together for seven years after Cohen invited Ihlen and her young son to live with him in Montreal. A post on Cohen's Facebook page says Ihlen's death has "evoked an overwhelming response from those who knew Marianne well, those who knew her only as Leonard Cohen's muse, and even those who previously didn't know there was a real Marianne." In an accompanying post, Mollestad writes that, "In her last hour I held her hand and hummed Bird on the Wire." (Read more Leonard Cohen stories.)