Summer 1988: at 17 years old, Chiara’s illness takes everyone by surprise.

Due to striking shoulder pain, she dropped the racket during a tennis match with friends. At first the doctors thought it was a broken rib and they prescribed injections. But the problem didn’t go away, and when the doctors analyze the situation more closely, the verdict leaves hardly any hope: osteogenic sarcoma with metastases.

In february 1989, Chiara underwent her first surgery in Turin.

Twenty days later, during a specialist visit at the Regina Margherita Children’s hospital, the doctor informs Chiara of her illness.

Her mother would have wanted to go with her, but she was forced to stay in bed at the house so generously made available during chemo treatments by a family unknown to them until then, because of a sudden and dangerous phlebitis.

“I was waiting for her, but minutes passed, and then became hours, until I saw her coming back through the large picture window in my room: she was walking very slowly, with her green coat, her hands in her pockets, and her father right behind her. As soon as she opens the door, I asked her: “How did it go, Chiara?”; but with a somber face, without looking at me, she replied: “Don’t speak now – twice – don’t speak now”.  And she lets herself fall on the bed, just as she was.
That silence was terrible, there was so much I wanted to say to her.  “You’ll see…maybe… you’re young…” but I felt that I needed to respect what she had asked me.
I watched her: her eyes were closed, but from the expression on her face I could see the struggle she was battling inside.  She had said her Yes to God many times, but in happiness, now she had to say it in her greatest suffering, but she couldn’t do it.
There was a small clock on the shelf above her bed.  After twenty-five minutes, which to me seemed unending, she turned to me and said: “Mom, now you can talk, now you can talk…”
I was thinking: “Jesus, Chiara has now said her yes, but how many times will she have to say it, and how many times will she fall?”. It took Chiara twenty-five minutes to say her yes, but she never turned back”.

After her first chemo sessions, she almost immediately lost the use of her legs.  One day she asked Maria Teresa: “Mom, will I not walk again? I loved riding my bike so much…” And she answered: “Don’t worry, if Jesus took away your legs, he will give you wings”.

Maria Teresa continues:

“I remember that when we left Turin for Sassello, we stopped at a highway reststop like we normally did. Chiara, who would usually go with her father to get something, started to automatically get out of the car, but she realized she could no longer do it, and with a normal tone she said: “Oh yeah! I can’t walk anymore…” At those words I felt like I was dying, and since I was sitting behind her, I reached forward and put my hands on her shoulders and squeezed them, trying to suffocate my own pain”.

And dad Ruggero adds:

“Certainly she offered this pain to Jesus as well, such a precious moment because there, in that moment she realized that she would never walk again. This is something that struck me, because that was a very difficult moment for us too; but seeing how she lived through it, we couldn’t stay at our human level, made of sadness and worries for the future, because she always wanted to stay in that dimension we could define as human-divine, and she wanted to stay there with us.
What always helped us in those years was the presence of Jesus among us, trying to offer Him this suffering, the only way we knew how, the three of us together, and each of us on our own: so that He would give us the strength.  And there was a serenity, a way of living in a supernatural dimension: certain things happen, and you can’t understand them well. But thinking back today we have to admit that for our family those were the two years most blessed by God: because Jesus allowed us to live something truly extraordinary, so extraordinary that we’re not able to explain it”.

Scan_058In June Chiara undergoes a second surgery: there is barely any hope. The hospital stays in Turin become more frequent. The gen and many other friends from the Movement take turns at the ‘Regina Margherita’ hospital to support her and her family.

Treatment is painful. She wants to be informed of every detail of her illness, and at every new, painful surprise, she never hesitates: “For you, Jesus: if you want this, so do I!”

Meanwhile, she continues her relationship with Chiara Lubich through her letters: to her she confides discoveries and darkness in her soul. The founder of the Movement writes to her: “God loves you immensely and wants to penetrate into the depths of your soul and make you experience drops of Heaven. Chiara Luce is the name I have chosen for you; do you like it? It is the light of the Ideal that conquers the world”.

In the meantime, the feeling of death makes way and becomes more vivid: “Mom, is it right to die at 17?”, she asked her one day.  And Maria Teresa: “I don’t know. All I know is that what matters is doing God’s will, if this is His plan for you”.

Scan_067Soon after, Chiara suffers a severe hemorrhage. Her life is in danger and she asks her mother: “Do you think this is a false alarm or will I go?” And her mother: “I don’t know, Chiara, it is on God’s time, but don’t worry, your suitcase is ready, full of acts of love, and when the moment arrives, Jesus will take you by the hand and will tell you: Come, now, let’s go!” Chiara asks her not to let go of her hand, and her mother reassures her: “Don’t worry, I will let go only when I will have felt that the Blessed Mother has taken it”. Her friends take turns in prayer all night. The doctors are not sure about whether to let her die or give her a transfusion; her parents are lost, in the midst of this doubt, not able to understand what is best for their daughter. Soon after, it was the doctors who decided to continue the treatment. Chiara will live one more year. More months that will prove decisive for her.

Scan_094Although immobile, Chiara is always very active: the small phone in her room becomes the essential instrument through which new life would circulate, along with her soul’s intuitions, and communications of feelings of closeness. In that period Chiara Lubich proposes to the youth of the entire world a new international movement and in the founding congress of the Youth for a United World, her words resonate and leave their mark even the hospital where Chiara is confined to her bed: “That suffering (by Jesus on the cross), that pain to redeem the world, was necessary – said Chiara Lubich – Our suffering is necessary to build a united world too (…) To live for half measures is too little for a young person who has only one life: something great is necessary… God is proposing something great to you: it’s up to you to accept it”. It is the experience that Chiara Luce is living; so she continues to live and offer every new challenge making herself available in thousands of ways. Thanks to the cable antenna that was mounted on her house, she is able to follow the live broadcast of the Genfest (an event with youth from all over the world that was held in Rome in May 1990). Africa too is always in her heart: she gives the money she received for her 18th birthday to a friend who was about to leave for Benin: “I don’t need it, I have everything”, she comments.

Chiara lives everything with simplicity and with others, with an impressive depth: in that little bedroom mystical and sacred become the daily normal, and the ordinary becomes an extraordinary sacrality. She usually says very little about her illness, she doesn’t keep a diary, but she communicates serenity, peace and joy to anyone who comes near her. Simply stated, Chiara continues to love: her parents, the doctors and nurses, her friends… Even when – as she will later write to Chiara Lubich – “medicine has surrendered its weapons””.