Today on Geek Girl in Love I would like to say goodbye to my friend, Abe Sass. We were workplace friends; as he was married to the head of the library and I was a very active volunteer. Most of our interactions were at Library events. Some of the events were artsy and social. Some, like a few Friends of the Sacramento Public Library Board meetings, were tense. Abe had my back during those tense meetings and gave me the confidence to speak up (and, I’m pleased to say that the tense period was relatively brief and the Board has been in wonderful shape for years). Every time I went to a library thing, I hoped to see him, because exchanging even a few words with Abe was always the highlight of the event.
Abe was a big guy in every way – he was tall, he was loud, he was the center of every room, and he loved everyone. He spent his life fighting for social justice and he loved to tell the story of how he was present for Martin Luther King Jr.’s March on Washington and “I Have a Dream” speech. Abe’s most vivid memory of the day: “It was hot!” He was a poet and an activist, and supported his wife, Rivkah, in her work as head of the Sacramento Public Library by being a part time househusband and by attending countless library events, both with and without Rivkah. Often he attended several events in a day. You could count on Abe to wear a crazy hat on Dr. Seuss Day and to show up at City Council meetings. The only thing I ever saw Abe refuse to do was dance at the Jane Austen Tea. Attend with great enthusiasm – yes. Dance – no. He said he was more of a Grateful Dead dancer than Regency one.
What I loved most about Abe was the way he made me feel about myself – and that’s not just my ego talking, because he made everyone feel good about themselves. In the moments I spent with him, I saw that he had the great gift of bringing out the best in people. He complimented me in sincere and specific ways. He gave me confidence. He helped me recognize my own strengths. Even though I didn’t spend much time with Abe, I always felt like he “got” me, and I doubt that I’m unusual in that regard. I think that in general he “got” people – whether he liked you or disliked you, he was able to quickly figure out what made you tick. He had the kind of warmth and open enthusiasm that I just love – I feel more alive when I’m with people who are passionate about the world and about their interests, and Abe was a passionate person even as he was able to exude calm during fraught moments.
In the photo above, Abe is sitting with my daughter at the Annual Friends Dinner (Theme: Tom Sawyer). Like anyone else who experiences a loss, I wish I could play over that dinner again. Better yet, I wish for one more dinner. I wish that all those times we tried to meet for coffee had worked. I wish I had gone to his poetry reading last month. Why did I miss it? It must not have been very important, because I can’t remember – so why didn’t I go?
There’s nothing new to say when someone is gone, we just have to repeat the things we already know but that, over and over again, we fail to internalize. Love the people in your life. Love them now. Love them today. Call them, text them, give them hugs (if they are huggers). None of us can possibly juggle all the parts of our lives in perfect order, so don’t worry about that. Just appreciate the times when being in contact with the people that nurture you works. Soak it up. Fill your battery. We will miss you, Abe. If you are at dinner somewhere, save me a seat.
Many of our readers are from the Sacramento and have connection with the library. If you would like to make a donation in Abe’s name, his family has suggested the following organizations:
The Sacramento Poetry Center http://www.sacramentopoetrycenter.com/membership-donatio…/…/;
Friends of Sacramento Public Library – http://www.saclibfriends.org;
P.S. 11 in New York City: http://ps11chelsea.org/annual-fund/ (in memory of Abe Sass, class of 1952);
The Innocence Project — http://www.innocenceproject.org/