ROME, June 25, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) - When Chiara Corbella learned she was pregnant with her third child, it was a great joy that ended in bittersweet tragedy for the young Italian mother, who died this month after postponing cancer treatment to save her cherished baby.

In a story that echoes that of Roman Catholic saint Gianna Molla, Chiara and her husband Enrico Petrillo embarked on a remarkable journey of faith in 2010 when they learned that they were pregnant with Francisco - and that Chiara had an aggressive form of cancer, reports the Catholic News Agency.

The news was especially poignant for the couple since both of Francisco’s elder siblings, Maria and David, had been lost shortly after birth. In fact, Chiara and Enrico had become popular pro-life speakers for their stories of their few treasured moments with each of their first two children before their brief lives came to an end.

This time, doctors said Francisco was healthy and developing normally. So when Chiara was advised to begin treatment immediately for her cancer, she declined, waiting for Francisco to be born in May of last year. The cancer progressed over the following year, depriving Chiara of sight in one eye before she finally succumbed on June 13, 2012.

“I am going to heaven to take care of Maria and David, you stay here with Dad. I will pray for you,” Chiara wrote to baby Francisco in a letter, one week before her death.

Chiara’s funeral Mass was celebrated by the Vicar General of Rome, Cardinal Agostino Vallini, who called Chiara “the second Gianna Beretta.”

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Saint Gianna Molla was an Italian pediatrician who died in 1962 from complications caused by a fibroma on her uterus, after she refused both an abortion and a hysterectomy because she was pregnant with her fourth child.

Although a tragedy to outside observers - and certainly also for Enrico, to whom Chiara was happily married – the couple’s last conversations reveal, in the young husband’s words, “a story of love on the cross” that seemed to conquer even death.

“The truth is that this cross – if you embrace it with Christ – ceases to be as ugly as it looks. If you trust in him, you discover that this fire, this cross, does not burn, and that peace can be found in suffering and joy in death,” said Enrico, according to CNA. “I spent a lot of time this year reflecting on this phrase from the Gospel that says the Lord gives a cross that is sweet and a burden that is light.

“When I would look at Chiara when she was about to die, I obviously became very upset. But I mustered the courage and a few hours before – it was about eight in the morning, Chiara died at noon – I asked her. 

“I said: ‘But Chiara, my love, is this cross really sweet, like the Lord says? She looked at me and she smiled, and in a soft voice she said, ‘Yes, Enrico, it is very sweet.’

“In this sense, the entire family didn’t see Chiara die peacefully, but happily, which is totally different.”

Enrico said he would tell his son Francisco when he was older that “the most important thing in life” is to “let yourself be loved in order to love and die happy,” and that “this is what his mother, Chiara, did.”

“She allowed herself to be loved, and in a certain sense, I think she loved everyone in this way,” he said. “I feel her more alive than ever. To be able to see her die happy was to me a challenge to death.”

Read the full CNA story here.