Laurie Anderson on Lou Reed's last hours: 'I have never seen an expression as full of wonder'

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Image Credit: Gijsbert Hanekroot/Redferns

Laurie Anderson already wrote a very touching, sweet tribute to her late husband Lou Reed, who passed away last Sunday, October 27. But in the pages of the current issue of Rolling Stone, she expands upon both her personal and professional life with Reed.

In the piece, she recounts how she first met Reed in Munich in 1992. She was familiar with some of his work — but admits that she had always assumed the Velvet Underground were British and was confused that Reed didn’t have an accent. Once they connected, they rarely looked back.

“Lou and I played music together, became best friends and then soul mates, traveled, listened to and criticized each other’s work, studied things together (butterfly hunting, meditation, kayaking),” Anderson wrote. “We made up ridiculous jokes; stopped smoking 20 times; fought; learned to hold our breath underwater; went to Africa; sang opera in elevators; made friends with unlikely people; followed each other on tour when we could; got a sweet piano-playing dog; shared a house that was separate from our own places; protected and loved each other. We were always seeing a lot of art and music and plays and shows, and I watched as he loved and appreciated other artists and musicians. He was always so generous. He knew how hard it was to do. We loved our life in the West Village and our friends; and in all, we did the best we could do.”

She describes how Lou’s illness — he was being treated for several years for hepatitis C, then liver cancer — quickly turned terminal this fall:

“Last spring, at the last minute, he received a liver transplant, which seemed to work perfectly, and he almost instantly regained his health and energy. Then that, too, began to fail, and there was no way out. But when the doctor said, “That’s it. We have no more options,” the only part of that Lou heard was “options” – he didn’t give up until the last half-hour of his life, when he suddenly accepted it – all at once and completely. We were at home – I’d gotten him out of the hospital a few days before – and even though he was extremely weak, he insisted on going out into the bright morning light.

I have never seen an expression as full of wonder as Lou’s as he died. His hands were doing the water-flowing 21-form of tai chi. His eyes were wide open. I was holding in my arms the person I loved the most in the world, and talking to him as he died. His heart stopped. He wasn’t afraid. I had gotten to walk with him to the end of the world. Life – so beautiful, painful and dazzling – does not get better than that. And death? I believe that the purpose of death is the release of love.

At the moment, I have only the greatest happiness and I am so proud of the way he lived and died, of his incredible power and grace.

I’m sure he will come to me in my dreams and will seem to be alive again. And I am suddenly standing here by myself stunned and grateful. How strange, exciting and miraculous that we can change each other so much, love each other so much through our words and music and our real lives.”

You can read the entire tribute over at Rolling Stone. And if you haven’t checked it out yet, read Metallica’s Lars Ulrich on going from being Reed’s admirer to a collaborator and friend.

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