Gabriel Rodó Sellés, «sit tibi terra levis»


Well then: near Gabriel Rodó Sellés there were always paintings, engravings and tools. There was, of course, a cello. There was always a book about the civil war, because he and the war shared an anniversary. Several times a day there was a cup of black coffee. Next to Gabriel was a Finnish woman who spoke correct Catalan. And next to her, a Catalan gentleman who made himself understood perfectly in Finnish. Beside Gabriel and Anita there were always friends. I was one of them. I was also his occasional secretary, but that’s another story.

If I think of Gabi, two images appear clear to me.

The first image is from 2013, in the Rectorate of the University of Las Palmas, where he had just signed the donation of his paintings and engravings. He looked sad because he knew that he would perhaps leave his adopted city forever. Las Palmas for him was a certain light in which he had been young, in which he had fallen in love, in which he had been happy. And at the same time, I imagine, although he did not tell me, he felt reassured that his work was left in good hands. He wished that on what (perhaps he sensed) would be his last trip, he would be accompanied by the serene Finnish landscapes that had posed for him. It was hard to decide to get on the road one last time. I couldn’t look back.

He knew that he and his wife, Anita Kamppari (she liked to add “de Rodó”) were leaving with some of the things that were necessary and dear to them, leaving many more behind. For decades they had lived like migratory birds between their little house in the Garden City and a basement in old Helsinki, number 5 Pietarinkatu, Pedro’s street. There she, looking towards the city of Pedro, lived in love with the Russian. The winter here, the summer there, and from each of their official residences, calls, postcards and letters flew non-stop so that the affections from one side and the other, and the entire world, were aware of their adventures. Christmas always came accompanied by an angel engraved by Gabriel, almost always with a star and sometimes with a mocking face.

The second image is from the fall of 2019. His Finnish angel, Marja Kamppari, had arranged the move from Pietarinkatu’s old flat to a smaller, drier and sunnier one. Anita was no longer in that little apartment, but there were some of the things that they had witnessed so many decades of life together.

Now that it has become fashionable to be a minimalist, to leave only the essentials in our crowded stocks, one cannot help but wonder what things, of all the beloved ones, would choose for that last stay. Gabriel, who never woke up as a child, had chosen a cardboard train. That proud train had accompanied him in his childhood as a sad and sick child who grew up with difficulty in the middle of a war. With him she would have entertained herself in those long hours of listening to the world through the glass. A childhood without a street, between the balcony and the gallery.

Marja Kamppari has written to me since that northern summer to tell me that Gabriel’s heart has stopped beating. He asks me to notify the people who wanted him on this side. I comply with your request and write these lines.

Dear Gabriel, rest in peace. Let the earth be mild.

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