Six weeks after [Margaret Leo] died, an ambulance raced 80-year-old William Shaunessy (not his real name) to the emergency room. He was having seizures. X-rays showed an enormous growth on his brain. He was in a coma and doctors feared brain cancer. His wife prepared for his death.
Only a few months before, Shaunessy watched his grandson play little league baseball. Leonard Leo, Executive Vice President of the Federalist Society, and one of the most influential conservatives in the nation’s capital, was there, too.
Shaunessy spoke at length to Leonard and Sally Leo’s wheelchair-bound daughter Margaret. The elderly man was struck by her kindness, her rapt attention, and what he later described as her “holiness.” Told of her passing, Shaunessy remarked, “Surely she’s in Heaven.”
When Shaunessy lay near death that August 26, his family prayed to Margaret Leo for her intercession. That happened to be Margaret Leo’s birthday. Within a few days the “huge growth” on the brain was a small patch of dried blood. Doctors offer no explanation.
The third miracle involves her younger brother, Francis, who was conceived shortly after she died. Shockingly, the unborn child was diagnosed with exactly the same malady that struck Margaret, spina bifida, something that rarely, if ever, visits the same family twice.
Sally Leo prayed for Margaret’s intercession for one thing only, that the boy would not need a shunt, the thing that so hurt, bedeviled, and eventually killed Margaret. But he did need one. Within a year, though, the deadly nightmare arrived. The shunt failed and Francis’s head swelled dangerously.
Before surgery began, the swelling went down. As a precaution, the doctors left in the malfunctioning shunt in case it ever needed to be replaced. Five years later he still does not need it.
How is it that her photograph sits right now on the desk of Clarence Thomas and that she has moved so many others? Because she carried her immense cross with infectious joy, certainly. But also because she showed genuine interest in everyone she met, the powerful and the stranger.