Don't miss the powerful testimony of Silvia and Roberto Fasana and their fourth child, who only lived 8 hours after birth.
I met Silvia in May 2014. I went by car from Muscat (Oman) to where she lived in Dubai — not as a tourist, but to participate in a retreat of spiritual exercises. She and her husband Roberto were the hosts, and I felt welcome from the first moment.
What I couldn’t imagine was that a year later, their fourth child, Giacomo, would be prenatally diagnosed with anencephaly. The child she was expecting, the first boy after three girls, was missing part of his brain and the upper bones of his skull and would be unable to survive outside the womb.
From that moment on, Silvia began to write a diary so as not to overlook a single moment of what she was going through.
Later, she published it in Italian and in English (Eight hours of eternity), adding a short introduction and some letters from friends. It is such a beautiful book that people need to read it.
How to face the news?
Before dedicating herself to her best undertaking, her family, Silvia had been a midwife and understood her son’s diagnosis perfectly.
It was very hard to receive that diagnosis. In Dubai, abortion is legal when the child has anencephaly, and they recommended it to her, saying, “it made no sense to continue.” Her husband Roberto was on a trip to Italy and she didn’t want to give him the news from far away. The girls were starting classes the next day and were excited about the first day of school. Silvia couldn’t sleep that night.
She wrote, “Jesus, why are you asking me this, why are you asking me while I’m here all alone?”
However, it didn’t take Silvia long to realize that she wasn’t alone: God was accompanying her through many people in different parts of the world.
First of all those closest to her: Roberto, who returned the following day, and an Italian Comboni Missionary living in Dubai, Sister Rachele. She also felt the support of Dr. Elvira Parravicini, a neonatologist in New York, and Enrico Petrillo, the husband of the Servant of God Chiara Corbella, whose first daughter had anencephaly.
But Giacomo himself was her primary companion: His life had meaning, and a lot of it.
Giacomo, the missionary baby
As Sister Rachele said, Giacomo was a little missionary!
I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for these months. With your presence you have taught us that our desires, even if they’re good, aren’t in our hands. Having a child, and having a healthy one, isn’t a right but a gift from God. You’ve taught us that just by existing and being loved (even though we’re so imperfect), we can be witnesses of God’s love and His greatness.
This is what Silvia wrote a few days before Giacomo’s birth, while Roberto was preparing to transport their yet-unborn son’s remains to Italy for burial.
Giacomo was born on February 28, 2016. His father baptized him while he was still in the nurse’s arms, and a priest gave him confirmation. His condition was extremely grave from the first moment of his birth. After introducing Giacomo to his sisters and grandparents, Silvia and Roberto remained alone with him. He died 8 hours after his birth. “You have changed our lives,” Silvia wrote in her diary.
The little boy’s funeral was held on March 3 in Dubai. During the homily the priest reminded everyone present that Giacomo was already in Paradise. What peace! It was time to celebrate Giacomo’s birth to eternal life! And that’s what his parents did, together with their family and friends, in the same hotel where they had celebrated the baptism of one of their daughters.
This is how Silvia’s diary ends:
Dear Giacomo, how does someone go back to living after something like this? How can I face the emptiness you have left? […] How can I be around newborns and pregnant women, or those who complain about their children’s colic? […] I answer by offering my pain to the Lord. Praying and asking you, my son, who are in Paradise, to intercede for me, that you may sustain me. […] Without Jesus, life would be full of despair. […] Only with the certainty that Jesus has conquered death and that death is not the end of everything, is life possible. A person can live even after having buried their own son […]. One day the six of us will be together. Forever. […]
Giacomo is truly a missionary. His short life had great value and changed the hearts of many people. You cannot read Silvia’s diary without also experiencing a sort of change of heart. It is God who acts through his missionary, Giacomo.