Enrico Petrillo: “More than feeling that the world was against us, we knew that we were with the Lord."
After a time, Chiara could neither speak nor swallow, and the pain was more intense each day. In the hospital, she asked for painkillers, but little was available to her because of the pregnancy.
Her treatment in March was just the first phase. The doctors suggested that the couple hasten delivery of the baby so that, this way, Chiara could undergo chemotherapy and radiotherapy as soon as possible.
The medical team suggested inducing delivery when the baby was seven months along, but the couple refused. Chiara felt convinced that she would not submit her son to any risk. In the end, Francesco was finally born at 37 weeks, on May 30, 2011.
There was no time to lose for a second operation to clean Chiara’s glands, and she undergoes surgery two days later.
Father Vito said that seeing Chiara was like seeing the martyred body of Christ on Good Friday.
“If you accept what is good, why not accept what is bad?”; so it is written. When Jesus is on the Cross, the only person who speaks to Him is another person who, like Him, is on the cross.
“When you go through those times of suffering, your friendship with the Lord gets stronger. You also realize that suffering is a gift, because it puts some things in your life in order, and you realize who you are,” Enrico affirms.
Chiara begins her treatment: five days of radiation per week, and one session of chemotherapy every 21 days.
Despite a difficult summer, the tests seem to indicate improvement, but towards the end of March of 2012, their worst fears come true: the cancer has metastasized to one breast, her liver, her lungs, and one eye.
Chiara remains in the hospital receiving antibiotics and undergoing new tests. It was Easter.
Meanwhile, Enrico stays at home taking care of Francesco: “It was one of the most horrible weeks, but the Lord has never let us down.”
For Enrico, Chiara’s tumor was like Jesus’ third question to Peter after the Resurrection. His answer, like the apostle’s: “Lord, you know that I love you.”
“It would be perfectly understandable if you were angry. Are you?” we ask Enrico.
“It’s a choice. I could be angry, yes. If you so choose, you can make your life decisions with the Lord, or you can choose to do it without God. I’ve never gotten angry, because the Lord was in our life and we knew that He is a kind Father.”
At the end of May, Chiara is suffering an authentic Calvary, during which she continues to hold on to the Cross more tightly than ever. On June 12, she enters her final agony, but she remains profoundly calm and lucid.
Her husband remembers that he saw Chiara “die happy.” “It wasn’t the happiness of a smile, because when you die, there is no smile, but it was the profound happiness of someone who knows where she is going.”
Chiara didn’t just have a peaceful death; it was more than that. “It was like looking at one of those images of Christ smiling on the Cross.”
“Francesco always says he has a mother in heaven and a father on earth.” Before leaving this world, Chiara wrote a letter to her baby boy, in which she asked him to always trust God. “A short time ago I read the letter to him,” Enrico says.
Enrico and Chiara had three children, but many “spiritual children” were born as the fruit of their marriage.
“Humanly speaking, I would have preferred Chiara to be here, so I could grow old with her, but, at the same time, I have this consolation: many children have been born because their parents heard Chiara’s testimony when our first child was born, and they decided to go ahead with their pregnancy. This thought fills my heart with gratitude.”
She was 28 years old, and died surrounded by her family and friends. “One of the most beautiful messages she gave us is that you can be happy already in this world, in spite of everything. If eternity is your reference point, everything that happens is actually very little.”
This is how Chiara wrote about it to her child: “Whatever you do, it will only be meaningful if you think about eternal life. If you truly love, you will realize that nothing belongs to you, because everything is a gift.”
Like Chiara’s own life — an eternal life, because she was born never to die.
Article originally published by Revista Misión. Photographs used by permission from Revista Misión and Editorial Palabra.
Since you are here…
…we’d like to have one more word with you. We are excited to report that Aleteia’s readership is growing at a rapid rate, world-wide! Our team proves its mission every day by providing high-quality content that informs and inspires a Christian life. But quality journalism has a cost and it’s more than ads can cover. We want our articles to be accessible to everyone, free of charge, but we need your help. To continue our efforts to nourish and inspire our Catholic family, your support is invaluable. Become an Aleteia Patron today for as little as $3 a month. May we count on you?