For Marisa Emmanuelli, giving (time, strength, money, skills) was second nature, a way of life. She always had something to give: practical help and comfort – she sought and found…

Whenever Marisa went up to Loppiano she never went empty-handed. Many remember that she always had something to say and it was never anything trivial. Almost casually, and always with a good dose of humour, she told of her latest adventures with simplicity and in general these were acts of solidarity, concrete help to support others, sums of money sought and found to assist families or people facing difficulties, accommodation for those who had no home (when this was not possible she made her own available), work for whoever had lost a job or was searching. In short: for Marisa “to give” (time, strength, money, skills) was second nature, a way of life.

Marisa Emanuelli from Pontassieve (near Florence) got to know the Focolare Movement in the 1960s and left us last Sunday, after a brief illness, but we can truly say that she is still here, continuing to live in the countless “acts of love” that she scattered with both hands. Marisa had the unique ability to make every person who came in contact with her feel unique and loved in a preferential way and never ceased to live like that even in the most difficult moments. In the last few months of her life, she said: “Now I can not do much more than listen, people tell me about many sufferings, difficult situations and when they have offloaded their burdens, they leave with a little peace and I thank God the Father for my condition because I can still give.”

In recent times, due to the illness, she had also lost the ability to speak: when for her communicating was almost like breathing. She did it with anyone and it was always for a single purpose: to love. Let’s leave the word to her then, to tell us some of those countless gestures that gave new life, strength and hope to many.

January 2004 – A few days ago I returned from Venice by train and sat next to me was a young man who was 20 years old, a Muslim from Morocco, who was a bricklayer and very happy to be working in Tuscany. We talked about our religions and I asked him if he had heard that the previous Saturday the Pope had spoken of our three religions – Muslims, Jews and Christians who worship the same God. We discussed how the Koran and the Bible have many things in common and that we had to let go of what divides us. “You see”, I told him, “that you and I are brothers?” Once in Florence we left each other promising to love everyone, while remaining true to our faith. Before leaving he said: “Can I give you a kiss?”

May 2007 – Ten days ago the (very old) father of a friend of mine died, I went immediately to the hospital to be near him and there was also a carer who looked after him, who was not Italian, and this lady was crying and crying; it touched me and I thought: look how she loved him. I say this to a gentleman beside me and he says to me: she is crying because she has lost her job. “Ah!” I say. Then they ask me if I want to be accompanied home, but I prefer to remain there to pray the Rosary. Half an hour passes and the phone rings: it is a friend who asks for a caregiver for her mum and I say to her: “I have one here right in front of me!”…I have to confess that finding a job for girls from overseas is one of my favourite hobbies…I don’t know, but I feel within me this love for humanity.

January 2010 – My granddaughter Lucrezia occasionally calls and asks me, “Grandma, tell me about your last act of love”. The other day I was taken aback because I had nothing to tell her, I felt that I had not lived, so I told her I would call back later. It was a cold and rainy day, I got dressed and went out hoping to find someone to give me the opportunity to do an act of love; there was nobody on the street so I went to church to visit Jesus in the tabernacle. Near the Madonna there was a person curled up crying. “Lady, can I do something for you?” I asked her. She looked at me astonished and began to tell me that she was asking a favour of the Madonna because it was a time of great difficulty, also financially. So I arranged to meet her the next day, once again in church. Back home I called some wealthy friends and all of them contributed. The next morning when I met her, I was able to deliver an envelope. I was happy because I could call my niece Lucrezia and tell her all about it.

The last witness was given in recent days. With a soft voice she whispered several times: “fotodo, fotodo”. Her daughter did not understand, and asked her various questions, until she understood the meaning of those syllables: “ofFrO tutTO a DiO” (“I offer everything to God”). Marisa serenely nodded her head with a smile, her final, radiant message.