That sums him up better than his obituary (which I wrote).
My siblings and I co-wrote his eulogy, which my brother bravely delivered at the wake on Tuesday evening. Here it is, edited to reflect me as the first person:
We called Ignacio Abba, which I think came about because my brother – his first grandchild – couldn’t say Abuelo. Abba was quiet, not because he was shy or nervous, but because he really valued silence. On one of his recent wedding anniversaries, both he and our grandmother, Nana, were asked to give their advice. His advice: silence. El silencio. This silence was evidently something he practiced in his life, and lived with contentment.
The result was that when you were with him, you learned to value that silence too. Even as a child, when you were with Abba, you could see that stillness allowed him to be present to the moment, to God, to the people he was with. And it made you still, too.
And so much of what we remember about Abba is small moments. He and Nana took one of us to Puerto Rico for a month or so every summer for several years, while Nana taught summer classes there. While she was teaching, we got to spend time alone with Abba. Much of this time was spent watching Abba serve; he’d buy us a comic book or book and a coke and then take us to the laundromat, and we would sit, read, and wait for our clothes to dry. He never said anything about his serving; it was just understood, between us and him, that it was something he did that he joyed to share in with us.
It was also in these small moments when his humor came out. His eyes always sparkled when he heard a joke, or saw the humor and joy in some part of life. As a child, when we visited Puerto Rico, he taught us to pop the petals of a Caribbean flower. He would enjoy the loud “pop” sound as much as we would.
He also loved to pick mangos as we walked, and showed us how to pick the ones ready to eat that day. He loved to walk and to teach us about the island through everything we saw: the lizards, the flowers, the coquis calling at night, the empanadas sold at the beach. Because he valued silence, he noticed and cherished all these things. And as a result, we did too.
He did not lose this as he got older. His great grandkids – the oldest of whom is 3 – loved being silent with Abba as much as we did.
He was also the best whistler any of us have ever heard. I think it started out as a way to avoid singing – which he wasn’t great at. But we loved it. When he whistled a song, it was better than some of the best singers singing.
And Abba was brave. He and Nana once had the fiercest beast anyone has ever known: a cocker spaniel. And we were terrified of that dog. But he always saved us from it, even when it meant carrying multiple grandchildren from the threshold of the door to the safety of the monkey bars (which the dog wasn’t very good at).
I’m going to close by talking about Abba’s eyes, because most of what we cherish about Abba can be glimpsed through his eyes. His green, Castilian eyes.
His eyes often contained silence, the stillness that he held within his soul. The contentment with the gift of his life and his family.
I can think of no better way to finish by quoting something my husband, Travis wrote about Abba’s eyes after he had met Abba twice, wrote: “Still, hushed, and sidereal, like an oculus in the dome of a cathedral at night, they bear no attribute of color or depth.”
His eyes radiated the love he had for his family, often overflowing with happiness at our mere presence- and especially the birth of every one of his great grandchildren. With the announcement of my pregnancy last May, his eyes grew wet, brimming over to his cheeks, as they did with the birth of a greatgrandaughter. But it doesn’t seem accurate to say that he cried: water, like happiness, just appeared in abundance.
Abba, thank you for teaching us to love silence and, in doing so, to love the world. We love you.
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