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Dad with advanced ALS surprises daughter by walking her down the aisle

Mario Giovanni and Hannah Chiametti

© Fondazione Don Carlo Gnocchi Onlus

Silvia Lucchetti - published on 05/26/22

The wedding was made even more memorable by the determination of a father who wanted to accompany his daughter on her big day.

On the Facebook page of the Don Gnocchi Foundation on May 5, a touching video was posted showing special moments of a wedding ceremony. Accompanying the bride down the aisle at the Palazzolo Don Gnocchi Institute Church in Milan was her father, Giacomo Chiametti, who has advanced ALS.

Mr. Chiametti, who gets around in a wheelchair and has already lost the ability to speak due to his illness, surprised his daughter Hannah by standing up to meet her and walking down the aisle with the assistance of a special walker.

The tenacity of a dad with ALS

Only the tenacity and love of a father could make this small but extraordinary feat possible. Thanks to the hard work and professionalism of the physical therapists who “coached” him for the event, the dad managed to walk down the aisle alongside his daughter and accompany her until she reached her groom, Mario.

The dream of walking down the aisle with his daughter

Hannah, who has lived in Michigan for years, wanted to get married in Italy to have her daddy by her side on such a special day. She hadn’t seen him in two years because of the pandemic. On May 3, her wedding day, Giacomo surprised her by waiting for her at the church entrance with the support of the medical team. Abandoning his wheelchair, he leaned on a walker that allowed him to slowly walk to the end of the aisle beside his daughter.

Smiling faces

It’s precisely the slowness that makes those moments unforgettable. I remember whispering to my father on my wedding day, asking him to go slow so I could enjoy the excitement of those steps and not trip over my dress. Hannah didn’t need to make that recommendation; she went along with her father’s step with a smiling face.

Perseverance in the face of illness

Giacomo has been living at the Don Carlo Gnocchi Foundation’s institute in Milan since 2012. Thanks to the physical therapists, who helped him practice for days ahead of the event, he was able to make this dream come true. Due to the disease, he has lost the use of speech, but his mind is still sharp and he can express himself thanks to a special computer.

His letter to Pope Francis

The Don Carlo Gnocchi Foundation’s website reports that some time ago, Giacomo Chiametti wrote to Pope Francis: “My children are essential for me, Holy Father, the responsibility that gets me up every day and keeps me alive … and when they come to visit I am very happy.”

In fact, Mr. Chiametti has two children: in addition to Hannah, he has a son named Maximilian, who also lives in the U.S.

The response of the Vatican Secretariat of State

Here is part of the response from the Vatican Secretariat of State, as reported by Avvenire

Pope Francis carefully read the letter, which reached him through the kindly care of Reverend Sister Gabriella (…) Our God is not an absent God, he is instead a God who is “passionate” about man, so tenderly loving that he is incapable of separating himself from us; He walks with us and will not abandon us in the time of trial and darkness.

The emotions of the Institute staff

On the day of his “little girl’s” wedding, Giacomo Chiametti must indeed have powerfully felt the presence of the Lord, who performs his first miracle precisely during a wedding banquet—at a wedding just like Hannah and Mario’s, which was attended by relatives and friends of the bride and groom, guests, and Institute staff.

Department head Dr. Guya Devalle, nursing coordinator Daniela Giudici, and therapists Elisabetta, Luisa and Paolo talked about the experience in the article on the Foundation’s website: “Giacomo wanted with all his might to do this, and to surprise his daughter who just wasn’t expecting it. We prepared and practiced for days. It wasn’t easy for him, but he did it. His face showed his fatigue, but in his eyes we saw a happiness that moved us all …!”

A simple and heartwarming ceremony

The English-language wedding rite was celebrated by Fr. René Manenti, pastor of St. Mary of Mount Carmel and a Scalabrinian missionary who lived in New York for a long time. The liturgy was enlivened by a choir formed by family members of patients.

It was a warm, simple ceremony, full of emotion. Mr. Chiametti’s shining face reminded me strongly of a sentence I read at the Agostino Gemelli University Hospital in Rome: “The hospital can be a place of pain, but also of hope.”

And Mr. Chiametti’s face, his gaze, tells us of this intrepid hope.

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