God's Caress in These Moments
Faced with her husband's leukemia, Valentina finds herself on her knees, drawn into a dialogue in which everything is illuminated.
Last week we celebrated our ten year wedding anniversary here in Boston where we have been living for a few years now. During mass, Father Luis spoke these words, which I felt were very true: “You are faithful to one another, but in the first place it is God who is faithful to you." These last months we have touched this firsthand: God is faithful.
Last October my husband Luca was suddenly diagnosed with acute leukemia. The months prior to the diagnosis had not been easy for me: a new job, isolation due to the pandemic, two children at home, and seven months pregnant with our third. During that time, I often found myself complaining and overwhelmed by circumstances. In doubt about the presence of God in my life, I also struggled to pray. But from the moment my husband was hospitalized, I no longer had any doubts about His Presence: on the contrary, I saw no alternative. I asked Him for everything, praying on my knees every evening.
It was a situation far beyond my human limit: illness, isolation, a child arriving just at the moment when my husband should have had a bone marrow transplant. Three days later I discovered that I had gestational diabetes--nonsense--but which added yet another problem of fatigue to those days. At that moment a friend told me: “The Lord is really asking us everything!” He doesn't ask for various things to deal with, which pile up on top of each other, as long as I can bear them, up to where I think I can. But He wants me, all of me, without calculations, and He has never left me alone or in despair.
Many miracles started to happen: people praying all over the world, friends keeping us company in every way they could, even if not in person, as we were isolated because of the risk of Covid; charitable gestures that were beyond any expectations; finding a donor whose bone marrow was 100% compatible with my husband's. And on and on.
I have always prayed for the healing of my husband, and while praying, I dwelt on the words of the Our Father, saying "Thy will be done" trembling. But as a friend helped me to understand, "Thy will be done" means saying “yes” to what is asked every day, without complaining, but offering: then everything has a meaning, everything is illuminated by His Presence, by the dialogue with Him.
For my husband it was a “yes” from the hospital bed. For me it was taking care of the children, the endless moments of waiting for the elevator in the hospital, knowing that every moment can be lived as prayer and offering. So I really began to feel His faithfulness, in the unexpected strength that I had and that was not mine, in the change of relationship with my husband, and in the proximity of all the friends who helped us by bringing us dinner or shopping, or praying from every part of the world thanks to a rosary on Zoom organized by friends in Italy, every day. Or even accompanying me to the delivery room. Our friends and relatives were truly God's caress in these moments, another concrete sign of his faithfulness.
After I had given birth to our son, a friend who had come to see me while my husband was still in hospital and in complete isolation, pointed out that I was already "fit" after a few days. When reality imposes itself, if we follow it as it is, we find ourselves with strengths and abilities that we never expected. Instead of using our energies to rebel against the reality that we would not want, we can use those energies to follow what happens and follow Him.
I often had the thought of protecting my children from this painful situation, but I immediately understood that it was not possible or right. It is God and not I who responds to their need for happiness (as to mine!); therefore, the only thing I could do was to testify to them a hope and the love of Jesus for us, even in circumstances that we certainly would not have wanted, and to the love of their parents for each other. After months in these difficult circumstances, my seven-year-old son, to the question “Why does God allow evil?," one day replied with great simplicity: “to save us.”
We celebrated ten years of marriage in June with unprecedented gratitude--uncertain about many things that may happen in the future, but certain that God is truly faithful.
Valentina, Boston, Massachusetts