He was a true friend, but it wasn't until Theresa's relapse and death that I knew the depth of his friendship. He always knew the right things to say to me, even if they felt harsh at the moment. He also knew when I needed a good laugh and was willing to provide humor if that was what I needed! After that we would occasionally chat about death, wondering what the last moments would be like, especially his last moments.
Then Shannon and I learned that #8 was on the way. I couldn’t wait to tell Father. He, of course, had a name chosen - Maximilian. To placate him, I said we may use it as a middle name. Each time we visited Father Stu, he insisted that Maximilian was the name of our child. After all, it was one of his favorite saints; he even had the saint’s prison number written on his medication patches. It was really one more subject to debate with him, along with who the better actor is between Harrison Ford and Bruce Willis, or whether basketball, hockey, football or wrestling were sports worth competing in or even worth watching.
We then learned that our little guy was probably going to die, but Father Stu wasn’t convinced. He embarked upon a prayer mission. While I cried at the side of my bed, begging God to take our baby sooner versus later, knowing how difficult it would be to lose a baby at term, he was praying that this little guy would be healed. Interiorly, I chuckled at his naivety. Really, what did he know about pregnancy and children? Besides, I no longer believed in miracles after Theresa’s death. At least not miracles for me.
Meanwhile, Shannon and I named our son Maximilian Joseph. My logic at the moment was that it really didn’t matter what our child was named since he was going to die. Besides Max would be in Heaven, and more than likely Father Stu would be joining him sooner than I.
Towards the end of the pregnancy, when we found out that little Maximo was going to make it, but had one remaining defect that could be very life limiting, Father ramped up his prayers for our little Max. Of course, he was not surprised when Maximilian made his debut November 16thscreaming, a picture of vitality. And he was less surprised when he drank from a bottle and began nursing. He wasn’t in the least bit astonished when we were able to bring him home to meet his brothers and sisters a week after his birth. I asked him a month ago why he believed when I had not. He replied, “Because I believe in one God that is so much greater than anything this world can throw at us.”
He asked me to make a couple promises in our visits these past years. I wouldn’t commit, knowing promises are easily broken. The first was to stand up at his funeral and ask everyone to pray for his soul. He was convinced he would be in Purgatory for a long, long time. Surely, he must have made this request of many people!
Another time he began a conversation, “Allison, we’re friends, right?”
“Oh good heavens,” I thought, “What is next?”
“We’ve been good friends for a few years now, right?" he continued.
"Kill me now, this is going to be interesting," was all I could think.
"I got to name your son, right? Then, promise me you’ll let him wrestle.”
God help me, but I couldn’t make that promise either. If for some reason Max does wrestle, despite my aversion to the sport, I will know Father Stu has escaped the confines of Purgatory and is petitioning for us all before the throne of God!
Indeed, Father showed me what true faith is. I absolutely believe that Father’s intercession is why I am holding Max now. I know now that if every prayer were answered we would already be in Heaven. Miracles are simply a foreshadowing of what’s to come. A friend asked following Max’s birth if I now believe in miracles. Yes, absolutely, yes I do. God’s plan is so much bigger than ours. And Father Stu has shown me, led me, and inspired me to believe even when we cannot see.