I was born in Trentino, a region of northern Italy, 67 years ago. During my adolescence, my only interests were music and art. Because of the constant arguments with my parents, I soon left school and home. A guitar, long hair, my band: this became my world. With some friends we formed a commune where we lived, playing and dreaming together. It was a place of passage, where hashish circulated. I met Anna there when I was twenty years old, and in the joy and recklessness of youth she became my partner. She occasionally used heavy drugs as well. To help her quit, I made a gesture which I later regretted bitterly: I tried them too. It was the beginning of a downwards slope that day after day led us into a bottomless pit, and the humiliation of having to find increasingly strong doses.
There followed years of fear, and the alternation of euphoria, withdrawal symptoms, hospital admissions and continuous relapses. And then prison. After serving my time, we decided to leave for India to learn how to play the Tabla, a typical percussion instrument. India fascinated us, to the point of making us forget the West and its materialism, and we were able to stay away from drugs. When we returned, the impact was very hard. Italy at that time was paralyzed by political terrorism. Bewildered, we found comfort again in the arms of heroin, which helped us not to think. In an even more ruthless way, we were sucked once more into the vortex of drug addiction. Years of physical and moral decline followed. Until we reached a dramatic crossroad: madness or death. I returned to India to detoxify myself. But I went alone, so that we would not condition one another and fall back again. When I returned to Italy, I accepted, reluctantly, to stay with an uncle in Tuscany.
It was the turning point. Strangely, I felt accepted and respected by him like one of the family. What animated the life of his family was the idea that God is Love, that he loves everyone personally and without conditions. This idea began to fascinate me too. On 1 May 1982, I went to Loppiano with my cousins for a meeting of young people from all over the world. Ever more convinced of wanting to make this life my own, I tried to remain in close contact with the inhabitants of the little town, who, as I discovered, had adopted the Gospel as the basis of their lives.
I wanted to tell Anna about what had happened to me, and I went to Trentino to see her. Her reaction was understandably harsh, she felt betrayed. After a few months, she wrote me a letter. She was in prison, and she wanted to see me. I thanked God: from the bottom the only place to go is upwards. “Use me as an instrument for her redemption!”, I prayed. Every week I went to see her and talk to her. After she had served her time, after a year and a half, we began a new life together, constantly helped by our new family, the Focolare. The desire grew in us to get married in church. Life became calmer and more secure, and was enriched by the arrival of two daughters. Anna qualified as a nurse. But after some time, she lost her head for a colleague at work. She asked me for a separation. After struggling in vain to avoid the breakup, I found an apartment and went to live alone.
Then came the first signs of an increasingly serious liver disease, which eventually required a transplant. The doctors said that I had only a few weeks to live and admitted me immediately. The time spent in hospital was precious, as I tried to prepare my soul, fixing it in God alone, with daily acts of love for the other patients, especially the loneliest ones. A compatible liver was found and the transplant was carried out. The outcome was above expectations, and after some time I was discharged.
Two years ago I received a phone call: Anna was asking me to look after our daughters, because she was to be hospitalized. I rushed to her side. The diagnosis of a terminal condition had unexpectedly brought the family together. We forgave each other, grateful to be able to make this last stretch of her journey together. In her final moments, while I slowly whispered “Hail Mary” in her ear, she occasionally accompanied my prayer with a sigh. We had never prayed together before. During the final words of the “Haily holy queen” … “and after this our exile show us…Jesus” .., Anna flew to Heaven. (S. B. – Italia)