Malaria was rampant in the area that the land owner kept several coffins ready to take care of the frequent deaths. Luigi felt a presentiment of his impending death and had even prophesied that one of the coffins would be for him. All too soon these words were proven true. Despite his robust appearance, his health had been weakened by his previous illness and he finally succumbed to the dreaded disease.
Treatments were administered, but proved ineffective. By the end of April, Luigi was bedridden not only with malaria, but with pneumonia and meningitis as well. Maria proved her devotion to her father by keeping the children quiet, and running for food and medicine. She prayed fervently to the Blessed Virgin to cure her sick father, her dear "Babbo." Maria took her father's position in gathering the children to say the family Rosary while Assunta finished preparing dinner. Her father did not improve and the sand in his hourglass was down to a few grains.
On May 6, 1900, after receiving the Last Rites, Luigi Goretti passed form this vale of tears to his eternal reward. His mortal remains were placed in one of Maezzoleni's coffins and taken to the cemetery in the farm cart, pulled by oxen driven by Alessandro Serenelli, the future murderer of Maria. Marietta and her family followed close behind in the footsteps of this strong young man, now guiding her father's body on the way to its resting place. These feet of Alessandro would soon advance toward Maria with the most vicious of intentions.
Devotion to her father did not cease with his death, for Maria never passed the cemetery without kneeling outside its locked gates, looking toward her Babbo's grave and praying for him. The Goretti family was too poor to have Masses said for the repose of his soul, but the Rosary was offered by the family every evening. Afterwards, Marietta would recite another one for her father, dutifully feeling the need of prayerful intercession for his soul. She remembered her catechism teaching which said that the souls in purgatory are totally dependent on the prayers of those still on earth. Her father's soul assuredly benefited from his living daughter's many fervent prayers.
Why were Luigi's dying words to Assunta to "return to Corinaldo"? Did he sense that something was wrong? How different life would have been if Assunta could have fulfilled his command! But his 35-year-old widow with six children under the age of twelve, and with many debts, could not be released from partnership with the Serenellis. The poor widow was in difficult circumstances.
After Luigi's death, Mr. Serenelli took advantage of Assunta. The first harvest after Luigi's death was good: 30,000 pounds of wheat and 9,000 pounds of beans, and yet there was nothing left for the Gorettis, except more debt, due to the Serenellis dishonest report to the landlord. Consequently, the Goretti children were even deprived of bread, and were not permitted to partake of the food which the Serenellis locked in the warehouse. Eggs were in plenty, but these too were whisked away and sold. Assunta was forced to appeal to landlord for justice.<< Previous chapter | Next chapter >>