I am Emilio’s mother. I always will be. Since September 22nd I have had a constant feeling that life cannot just end with physical death.
I am violently rebelling against God. I do not want to pray. I am turning into myself for the proof of a life I cannot see. But I can feel nothing of it, and it seems from here beyond my reach. I stop working and I am doing nothing. I go to the cemetery every day and to bed early in the evening. I count every day as one day less.
And yet I often observe unexplainable phenomena that appear to be signs of Emilio’s life around us. I then feel such strong emotions, but I fight them back in order not to get mixed up in an absurd game of coincidences. My mind takes refuge in a cave, deep and dark. Down there I defend myself from an existence I deny, but my heart doesn’t give up and pushes me to take notice of those strange, small events by beating loudly at the closed door. My duty to relate these things forces me out to the open, to think, to ask questions. The love for my son is not a memory. It is a reality. I love him as I ever did, more than ever, but in the same way that I always have. It is the only way I know.
His father and I are surrounded with a lot of love. Our friends and Emilio’s friends are full of affection. I try to open up a little with them. We talk, we tell each other our memories, dreams, sensations. Then we accidentally glance at the door of our house, at the steps that lead to Emilio’s room, at the photos, at the flowers. We have all come here to give and to find some comfort, but without success.
The nuns of Villa del Rosario, the hospital where Emilio’s father, Mario, works as a doctor, are very close to us, like sisters. Emilio was born in their home, they saw him grow to be good, bright, handsome. They looked after him as a chi1d, and as a man, they saw him in the surgeon’s white coat. During the difficult delivery I had with Emilio, the nun in the operating theatre, brusque but kind, had to use her initiative to get us through. ‘She always tells me about when I was born’, Emilio used to say laughing. This cheerfulness of Emilio’s was infectious. Even now he manages to enter into our conversations, which can therefore never be only sad memories. And so a faint light appears and enters my cave. I begin to feel called back to prayer, perhaps it is Emilio’s prayers for me. Slowly, I am rediscovering a glimmer of faith.

Christmas is getting closer. The festive atmosphere hurts me more than ever. I have nothing to give, I want nothing. But I am determined not to get depressed again. I pray to the Baby Jesus and His Mother for Emilio’s happiness. I think of the stable in Bethlehem, which is full of light. I pray to God to teach me to understand a love greater than that we know on earth. Today I have just stopped writing thank-yous to the hundreds of letters and telegrams we have received. But these notes will not be delivered with the Christmas mail. With the start of the New Year, I can spend a few hours every morning at my desk, writing.

It is the first week in January. On my desk is Emilio’s electronic organiser. It rings every day at a quarter to midday. I listen to that sound as though it is a call and I answer it as I can, silently, with the beating of my heart.
On 4th January, like any other day, the ring interrupts the list of addresses that I am copying. I remain deep in thought with my pen touching the paper, but today I feel that the pen is moving. I freeze with emotion, but I try and lift the weight of my hand. The pen moves. I don’t have the courage to look, because I already know what it has written. I try again, still without looking at the sheet, The pen moves again. His name, Emilio, comes back, this time clearer. I am so afraid that this was drawn by suggestion, an unconscious impulse unintentionally passed from my mind to my hand. I could never replace him. Nor could I be under an illusion, it would feel like a desecration. Therefore, I say nothing to dad. After a few days pass, when the organiser rings whilst I am at my desk, I try once again. The pen moves and amongst much scribbling, I can read some words clearly enough. I guard this immense secret jealously inside me and confide it only to my prayers.
On 9th January Ignazio and Antonio bring me a photograph of last August’s cruise to the Eolie Islands: Emilio is at the helm and smiles happily amongst his friends. The sailing boat. What a passion! I also enjoy it, but I’ve never managed to steer at the helm. So, since he was a small boy, it became his job.

Silvia knows me well, she knows of my moods. Because of that she insists on taking me back to Villa Flaminia, Emilio’s school. For many years now we have been organising shows with our sons and hundreds of children and teenagers. This has been a wonderful experience, a constant source of joy, of tenderness, of friends. Even when our children had finished school, we continued the wonderful shows in their school. Recently they asked us to give them a hand in organising some dance classes. And we accepted of course, because of our friendship and in order to be keep in touch with the theatre. The time has now arrived to think about the yearly show. To convince me Io go back to the school, Silvia is telling me that they need my help. But I think the opposite is true: they want to help me, because at Villa Fiaminia they love me. I have been the mother of a child loved by everyone. When he finished school, everybody I met asked me: where is Emilio? Almost amazed by why we were not, as ever, together. I finally promised Silvia I would return, though I am postponing it everyday. I cannot think yet of passing that gate, of crossing the garden, the entrance hall, the corridors, to sit in the empty theatre that we loved so much. Nobody will now ask me: where is Emilio?’

It is l0 th January. We have gone to Spoleto, where all three of us were renovating a country house with much enthusiasm. The work has now been stopped, but dad wants it started again. I weakly accept his decision, and all the time I am thinking about going back to the cemetery. It is already late. We rush towards the church of Verano, to light our small candle, always in the same place, next to the altar of the Virgin Mary. She knows of every changeable emotion, of my vast feelings, as I repeat this little gesture everyday. By this time the cemetery is about to shut. Dad takes me home, where later on Carlo and Luciano, two of Emilio’s friends, come round to see us. Carlo asks to go to Emilio’s room, and there he finds a poem by Richard Bach. I see on the cover two large wings and the title There's no such place as far away. Then these lines quoted: Can material distances really separate us? If you wish to be near someone you love, aren‘t you already dose to him?

I come back to the cemetery on 11th  January. In the church I find yesterday’s candle half burnt down. I light it again together with a new one. I feel guilty for the last rushed visit, and even this evening I don’t have much time because Rina, Emilio’s godmother, is waiting for me at home. It is difficult to talk. We remember his funeral, on a warm day, a day full of joy and colours: ‘There was so much love. A great sense of peace. A wonderful light.’ As I am speaking I realise that I am repeating the words of those recounting a so-called ‘near death’ experience. My cave is lighting up.
I understand something that is impossible to put into words, but it explains why in those moments I don’t feel the piercing sadness of the last farewell. Instead I feel myself to be a participant in a kind of triumphal atmosphere whose huge and harmonious beauty I am able to perceive.

It is 12th January, I cannot postpone it any longer, I am going to Villa Flaminia after my visit to the cemetery. Here, after I arrange the flowers, I go to the church and exactly under the candle-holders where I placed yesterday’s two candles, I find a small wax boat. It is sitting on waves, it has a small hull, a mast, and some threads of sail entangled on top of the stay. It is very delicate, As I pick it up, I lose grip and a small piece of wax, perhaps part of the waves, falls off. But the small boat is intact. I wrap it in a handkerchief and take it with me. In the evening, dad is waiting to hear what happened at Villa Flaminia. He knows how hard it has been for me to come out of my isolation. But I have something else to tell him: ‘Look, Emilio has made us a present.’ And I show him the small wax boat I don’t tell him anything about our secret papers, but, looking at that impossible gift, it becomes inconceivable to believe that our son is not writing to us.