A Lifesaving Image

By Terry Peloquin

People pick up lots of lessons when they visit the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. Fred Hughes believes his lesson was a lifesaver.

Fred and his wife, Margie, of Baldwinsville, New York, have visited the Shrine several times over the past two decades. On one visit in the fall of 2019, they crossed paths with Fr. Seraphim Michalenko, MIC, the vice postulator for the cause of St. Faustina’s canonization in North America. “It was amazing! He’s a fantastic person,” Fred said. 
Father Seraphim told Fred and Margie the background of how the Divine Mercy message was brought to the United States from the Eastern Bloc. 

“He was very interested in us, our background, and what our crusade had been for Divine Mercy.” Among other things, the couple told Fr. Seraphim how they were instrumental in encouraging their pastor to promote the Divine Mercy message at their parish when they lived in Sarasota, Florida. “He thanked us for what we had done.”

Toward the end of the conversation, Fr. Seraphim asked Fred, “Do you, by any chance, carry an Image of the Divine Mercy with you?”

Fred usually did carry a Divine Mercy prayer card with him, but he had removed several things to lighten his wallet before the trip, and the Image was left behind. Father Seraphim told him, “Well, Fred, definitely make sure you put that back in the wallet, because the Divine Mercy will certainly protect you and look after you.” As soon as he got home, Fred followed Fr. Seraphim’s instructions and returned the Divine Mercy Image to his wallet.

About two weeks later, Fred and Margie were visiting their son and daughter-in-law in Oradell, New Jersey. They arrived at their son’s home with numerous bags. “Our son Dalton came out to help us carry things. Their home has very high stairs going into their kitchen. There are 14 very steep stairs, with a marble floor below.“

“I was carrying too much,” Fred admits. “As I’m almost at the last step at the top, the family’s dog came charging around the corner and startled me. I fell backwards. I tumbled, over and over and over, trying to grab something. Everything I was carrying was flying all over the place. I got all the way down and hit my head right smack on the marble floor.”

Fred later learned that he was unconscious for a few moments. “The next thing I know, I’m coming to, and I hear my son who is already down the stairs with me. I can hear Margie screaming. Dalton was yelling for my older grandson to go get towels. I realized blood is coming down from my head, and they’re trying to stop the bleeding. My daughter-in-law is on the phone calling 911 to get an ambulance.”

Once at the hospital, the ER doctor examined the cut on Fred’s head, and stopped the bleeding. “They X-rayed all my body because they figured maybe I broke my back, my spine.”

The test results, which showed that there were no fractures whatsoever, astounded the staff. After all, Fred was 82 years old. “I remember the doctor saying, ‘Man! This is a miracle!’ The physicians were amazed, as was my family — based on what they saw when they looked down the stairs at me — that I survived.”

The medical staff worked to relieve the swelling at the site of the cut, and Fred received 17 stitches. “I am absolutely convinced that it is because of the Divine Mercy Image I carried that I survived that tumble,” he says. “I’ve been thanking God ever since. Although I don’t know what it is yet, I feel that there’s something that I need to do in thanksgiving for my survival.”

Fred says that he hasn’t had a chance to talk to Fr. Seraphim since the incident. “I appreciate him, and I pray for him. It was one of the highlights of my life to meet Fr. Seraphim. And, literally, I guess he saved my life.”  

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