Francesca Pedrazzini.

You See, I am Going to Heaven

“The faith makes us fruitful, because it expands our hearts in hope and enables us to bear life-giving witness.” These are the Pope’s words in Porta Fidei. Here is a brief account of a “normal” life molded by the encounter with Christ.
Davide Perillo

“I am not afraid.” Francesca said it clearly, almost with a shout. In cases like this, they speak of “summoning up the last powers,” but it is the opposite. For her, her powers came all from that certainty, repeated to her husband a few hours before dying: “I am not afraid.” The same certainty had shaped life and death, health and sickness. Faith.

Francesca Pedrazzini was 38 years old, a year less than Vincenzo, her husband. She was a teacher, and he a lawyer, 12 years of marriage, three daughters (Cecilia, 10; Carlo, 7; and Sofia, 3); a full, joyful life, the life of someone who loves life: friends and work, family and the sea of Greece...

It was just as they were returning from their vacation in January 2010 that everything took an unexpected turn: a 2-inch mass in her breast. “It was tough from the start,” Vincenzo tells us. “We were afraid, but she faced it with her head held high. After the operation, we had started off again, enriched by the experience.” The tests and check-ups went well for a while. In March 2011, the doctors said, “Congratulations, you’re cured. It will be just a memory.” It wasn’t to be. In September, Francesca came back from vacation with a backache. Another series of tests showed she had metastasis in the bones and in the liver. It was at that time that she sent a text message to her friends. Everything is expressed there: “I am in peace because Jesus keeps His promise to make us happy. Travel this road with me and we’ll see. I am certain.”

“Francesca passed through all kinds of moods,” Sara, her sister, recalls. “Rebellion, anxiety, anguish... But the first instant was a ‘yes.’ She said, ‘It’s okay.’ She didn’t cry. I remember it well, because I was desperate, but not she.” Why? “She always lived the relationship with Christ decisively. She was consigned to Jesus, completely.” She had a strong temperament, the type that clashes often with others. “But she had a clear intelligence of the instant,” Maria Chiara, her mother, asserts. Sara said, “One of the phrases that she repeated often was: ‘I am overcome by gratuitousness, by acceptance.’ We lived in constant companionship: e-mails, text messages, friends in the hospital and at home, people who were praying for her in every corner of the world....” The journey got tougher. Heavy chemotherapy, days spent between bed and sofa, but there was a little relief in the spring. The illness progressed, but Francesca felt better. “And she was tremendously happy,” says Vincenzo. “She kept saying, ‘I want to live the time the Lord grants me doing lovely things with my children.’” And the children? “They have always been a wonder for me,” answers Vincenzo, “because they have had great freedom. So their mother was not well? Okay, that was that. They suffered for it, but they simply faced up to what happened.” Another vacation marked the months for Vincenzo and Francesca, last July at Cervinia, with the Lombardy CL responsibles, and Fr. Julián Carrón, who told her tenderly: “Look, Francesca, we are all chronically ill, but you have an additional chance for maturing. You must not miss it.” There were two e-mails sent to her friends before and after that talk. You just have to read them. The first: “As soon as the exams go badly, tremendous anguish assails me. The future terrifies me, it breaks my heart to think of my children growing up without their mother and my husband growing old alone. I know that fear is not against the faith–even Jesus was afraid on the Cross–but it’s awful, and I don’t want to live what is left of my life with this fear in my heart, as if Christ’s embrace for me and for my family were unable to defeat it. I want to have a faith that truly has to do with life, and is this not worth more in the final test? If not, we are always looking for satisfaction where everyone else does, as Carrón said to Repubblica. The others perhaps look for satisfaction in money and power, and I look for it in health.” After the meeting, she wrote: “It’s the time of the person; if you are not taken up by the Event, there is nothing to be done, but if you are taken up, you can enter into any circumstance verifying that God does not falter even in an earthquake and you have a new ‘I.’ I am shaking a little, but I don’t want to miss this opportunity!!”

She didn’t miss it, but exploited it right up to the final days. Vincenzo tells us what happened: “When the doctors explained to me that there was little time left, I fell into a state of anguish. What should I do? Should I tell her or not? One day she looked at me and said, ‘Vince, you know you must be calm. I am sure of Jesus. I am not afraid, but curious as to what the Lord is preparing for me.’ But aren’t you sad? ‘No, I am peaceful. I’m only sorry for you, because your burden is heavier than mine.’ Here, there was a transformation. After those words, I was a different man. The anguish had vanished.” The following day, she asked to see the children, one by one. “You know, I’m going to Heaven. It’s a beautiful place; you shouldn’t be worried. You will miss me, I know, but I will see you and will always take care of you. When I go to heaven you must have a big party.” She was in peace, so much so that when she was already in a coma, her husband thought, “Franci, do you know, I would like to come with you? For the first time in my life I thought this, without any fear of death. I want to live like she lived this year.”

Francesca died on August 23rd. The funeral was something else, so much so that, at the end, a colleague said, “Don’t be offended, but it seemed like a party for me.” The taxi driver who brought a friend, when he saw the atmosphere, said, “Now I know why you dressed so elegantly–you are going to a wedding!” The wave that it generated is true. Her uncles, who had abandoned the faith 40 years ago, now attend Mass every day. An acquaintance of theirs who has a relative dying in the same hospital was struck. “I’d like to know why people are being converted over my cancer,” Francesca had said to a priest friend of hers. He replied, “It’s the mystery of the Cross.”

It is also the mystery of the Resurrection. “Our friendships have been transformed, all of them,” says Vincenzo. “They have become friends for destiny.” Fear has no more hold. “Before Franci died, I asked her what I should do with the children,” says Sara. “And she said, ‘Free yourself from this load. They will never be your children; you go on being an aunt. Don’t worry, and rest assured that Jesus fulfills the promise He has put in our hearts. He will do it for them, too.’” A few days ago, Vincenzo took the children to the Adventure Park, with the usual hanging bridges and rope swings. “At the end, Carlo turned around to me and asked, ‘Did Mummy see us?’” Yes, Carlo, she saw you, don’t worry.