I'm going to have to ban early morning phone calls from my younger son; they never bring good tidings. In January it was the death of David Bowie, his voice tender because he knew how upset I'd be. Our shared desolation at the outcome of the EU referendum in June was mirrored this Wednesday last by horror at Donald Trump's ascent to power. This morning he was too upset himself to get the words out, but I guessed straightaway. There was no one else left.
I've never found him depressing (though I do avoid listening to some of his songs when things aren't good - notably, Dress Rehearsal Rag). In fact, I'd say it was the other way around - when I've been at my lowest and turned to him, his songs and poems have lifted me. I think it's because although his great theme is endings - the loss, mess, despair and emotional exhaustion of them - he shows us their beauty too.
But now - with the exception of Alan Garner - my heroes are gone, all within the space of three years - first, Seamus Heaney, then Terry Pratchett and David Bowie, and now Leonard Cohen. White, English-speaking men - I know - and flawed too, at least in the case of the singers. But as Leonard himself put it 'Ring the bells that still can ring/Forget your perfect offering/There is a crack in everything/That's how the light gets in'. And between them, they've taught me the importance of recognising beauty in the moment and celebrating it, that being good and being nice are not the same thing, that being yourself and pushing beyond your comfort zone is vital to creativity, and how to pick yourself up again and again and carry on with grace to the end.
Finally, that I'm not alone.