"I surrendered to gratitude"

Gabriele, from Bergamo, managed to accompany his mother to the cemetery. Almost clandestinely. He thinks about her, about what she left him. But also about our elderly, and why we take care of them. They are our true richness.

Yesterday, we took my mom to the cemetery. Almost clandestinely. Me and my whole family were there. Now that she is there, where she wished to go for many years, I do not want to lose what I have learnt in these extreme days. To be honest, as often happens to me, I was able to confirm an intuition that my wife bluntly shared with me this morning: "Your mother is a woman who leaves us much more than she takes from us in her absence”. A human inheritance, of faith, of joy, despite the terrible trials she had to face during her life. This morning, the first thought that invaded my heart, not only mine but also my wife’s, who was immediately on the same wavelength, was that of gratitude.

In front of the banality with which we normally live, which is the greatest injustice that we can perpetrate against ourselves and against our insulted nation, we can only surrender to gratitude. Gratitude is the highest feeling of realism. Never before have I felt the truth as in these days: have we given ourselves to ourselves? Is there even a single hair upon our head that we decided to be like this? Even breathing, which pneumonia makes difficult, is that due to me? Is there any true affection in my life that was dependent on a decision I took? It would be enormously naive to say otherwise. The naivety of spoiled children. And yet how much does this naivety takes us as soon as we get distracted. We go back to thinking that being the protagonists of history is not being grateful for what we have and participating in creation with what little we are, and know how to do. And we immediately take everything for granted. What we have is owed to us... But where is that written? Not in nature, not in reality. In the end, it is like at the beginning, in the earthly paradise: man finds himself so immersed in grace that he says everything is mine. And it is true! Everything has been done for him, so that he will be happy. But if he misappropriates it, he loses it all. It is a matter of realism, even before faith. To see how things really are.

This is the lesson I learnt from my mother, a peasant woman, then a worker, then a housewife, a mother whose beloved daughter died at 17, and then her beloved husband. She always asked for the meaning of all this with virility, without clamouring at the God who makes all things, without ever taking her eyes and heart away from reality. Even in the last few days, she struggled like a lioness. She did not let herself go. Letting go in order not to suffer is a bourgeois thing. Because life is not a right. It is a gift, and we must be grateful for it no matter the situation we find ourselves in. What I am I owe to God, through my mother. I did not see this as clearly as I do now that it is gone. And it is even greater than before! “Your mother leaves us with much more than she takes from us with her absence”. That is right.

But I would like to broaden the horizon of knowledge beyond the family. In these days, I also rediscovered an affection that I never had for this country. The news haunts us, but, at the same time, it reveals a common feeling that had never been seen before.

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Why are so many old people dying in Italy? Because they were alive, because they were well, they were cared for, and, above all, because there were many people around them who loved them. And this is not comparable to any other country in the world, I think. We are prepared to lose money. Our elders are the most precious asset. We will make up for it. But in the meantime, we take care of them as we always have. It is not just a matter of the efficiency of the health care system, either. It is not just a matter of scientific research. All this Italian human excellence has a dominant gene, which is the heart. A heart that is able to mobilize, to soften, to sacrifice itself, to never be indifferent up to the end. It is a legacy conferred on us by history and its profound interpenetration with the Christian and Catholic experience.

Beware, I am not a traditionalist. I have never been a traditionalist. Every hint of nostalgia and every barricade in the name of the past annoy me. Christianity looks to the present and is curious to see how Christ works now. Now! But in this now, it cannot but recognize its history, its DNA.

My mom always knew this. She always lived it. And my wife, who looked after her day by day, hour by hour in her agony, does too. May this experience last, be communicated, spread to children, grandchildren. This is a richness that is not put in the bank, that has nothing to do with capital and stock exchanges. But, at the end of the day, it is the only real richness that interests us and that will rule the world.
God save our parents.

Gabriele, Bergamo, Italy