"The Raising of Lazarus" by Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio

Luca and Chiara: Life is Never Over

Luca and Chiara’s story speaks of an unexpected hope born after a tragedy and of the miracle of charity and unity among different types of people.
Giorgio Vittadini

The following article originally appeared in "Il Sussidiario" on June 22, 2018.

One way to get home is to walk around the whole world, wrote Gilbert Keith Chesterton. Chiara’s story is an ongoing journey around both the physical and the existential world. Still, she already knows a lot about this home.

When she married Luca, she quickly realized that life would continue to amaze and surprise her. They found themselves living far apart because of work: she in Turin, he in Venice. As they looked for a way to be together, Luca proposed the idea of moving to America. He did not have any work offers or study opportunities, but Luca was like that; He didn’t like to rely on tranquil securities. So, what did he propose? To apply for the Green Card Lottery through which, each year, totally at random, the American government grants permanent residence to the winners. There are around fifteen million people who apply worldwide. Luca was among the fifty thousand winners.

The couple left Italy and went to live with friends in Florida. Luca had to find work, and the least immediate but most direct way to do so was to pursue a Master’s degree, which would have had to be paid for with their savings. He submitted only two applications and was accepted into one of the most prestigious programs at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh.

His overseas career began here and, like all American stories, was a journey made up of successes and failures. His first job was in Sacramento as an IT Security Supervisor. After some time, he was fired because of cost containment. A new job as IT Security Architect brought him back to Pittsburgh and then to Raleigh, North Carolina, in a prestigious multinational financial company.

Meanwhile, Luca and Chiara, day by day, got to know this new country that had welcomed them. He even started writing for Il Sussidiario. Luca was a curious person. He liked to read and to learn. He was not afraid of challenges, and when he didn’t understand something, he would research it, study it, or ask someone with more competence.

During this time, Chiara, in addition to packing and unpacking suitcases, gave birth to two beautiful children who are now six and four years old. At first, she worked in an Italian-American restaurant where she did everything, from baking desserts to cleaning. The family was also growing in faith, connecting with various CL communities in America, getting involved in different parishes and with the Knights of Columbus… Every day they prayed together, no matter what difficulties they had to face. Prayer clarified that reality was positive and that their task was to risk themselves in action with intelligence and let God take care of the rest.

Then, Luca’s 49th birthday arrived, and they celebrated by going out to dinner with the whole family. When they returned home, Luca went upstairs to put one of the kids to bed. Chiara heard a thud: Her husband had died from a stroke. What can one who suddenly loses her husband in a country that is not even her own do?

Here, the second part of the story begins, not as the end of the first part, but as its continuation. Chiara discovered that Luca is a presence that continues to impose itself through its positivity. As she said in a disarming way at the funeral, “I always knew that God loved me because He gave me Luca and the eleven years I lived with him have been a Grace for me. I thank God for this great gift that He gave me and I am certain that Luca protects us from Heaven.”

Surprisingly, life continued to prevail right away. The day after this tragedy, their older daughter had a performance that she had been preparing for a long time. Chiara brought her to school as usual and entrusted her to her teacher. Only that evening did she tell both daughters that Jesus had wanted their dad with Him because he was such a good man. She later confided, “I didn’t lie to the girls. I really believe this.”

What has happened from then on has been the surprise of a reality around Chiara that is anything but individualistic and indifferent. A friend from Pittsburgh got in her car that same night and stayed with her for a week. Her friend’s husband, who is retired, came to take his wife’s place and stayed with them for a month. Finally, a woman Chiara had never met before came to see her, sent by a mutual friend in Italy. Just a few days later, it seemed like they had been friends forever. Other friends from different CL communities and from places where they had lived before flew out to Raleigh just to keep her company. Every day, their neighbors got involved, and a family originally from India cooked all their meals for them. Luca’s colleagues also organized a collection to help the family.

The funeral vigil and Mass were a hymn to the life that continues, capped by the words of Chiara: “There are no words to console my heart. Still, there remains the certainty that death is not the end, but rather the beginning of new life. A few times I told Luca: ‘I am afraid to die!’ He answered me: ‘That is fine because you are attached to life and life is something serious for you!’ Luca is watching over us and I see him through so many people who are praying for us and through the gaze of our children. For me, this is a miracle.”

Christian doctrine teaches us that life is not the end; in the mystery of the Body of Christ and of the Church, the one who dies continues to live together with He who is alive. Chiara remembers: “Luca often told me: I feel so lucky. God is so good to us.” To a man good and true like Luca, this is evident. Remaining before the eyes of the rest of us are the unexpected hope born after tragic events, and the miracle of charity and unity among all different types of people. These facts are also helpful in a historical moment that is so often confused, violent, and hopeless.