The Soul of a Son

By Harry A. Mooney

I’m a widower with seven children. My third son, Daniel, was afflicted with juvenile onset diabetes when he was 14, and his mother died when he was 17. Those two events changed him — his personality and his outlook on life — and he never fully accepted either one of them.

One night in 2008, he informed me that he was going blind. Although he took his daily insulin, he didn’t do much else to control his diabetes. We discussed various courses of action. The following day, on my lunch hour, I took him to the ophthalmologist. The prognosis was not good. Blindness would be inevitable. Following the appointment, I took him back home. 

When I returned home later that afternoon, he had a strange look on his face, and he did not speak to me. The next thing I knew, he was running out of the house. 

I drove around the neighborhood, but I couldn’t find him anywhere. I returned home and soon heard the town’s fire whistle go off, indicating an emergency. I live near the firehouse. I decided to go there, thinking the alarm may have something to do with my son. Alongside the firehouse is a set of railroad tracks. When I arrived at the firehouse, I saw firefighters gathered by a passenger train that had come to a stop. I was told that the train had struck a man. I gave them a description of my son, and they told me to stand by. Soon after, I was told that the description matched that of the victim whose body lay under the train.

I immediately called my daughter and then my parish. I wanted a priest to quickly come to the scene. As a child, I was taught that when someone dies, the soul can stay with the body for an undetermined amount of time, and so I wanted my son to be anointed. The priest and my daughter both arrived quickly, but unfortunately we had to wait in a police car. Despite my pleading, the police would not allow the priest to go to my son. It took four hours for them to extract his body from under the train.

Although the priest did finally anoint my son, I felt that the four-hour wait was too long — that his soul had likely departed from his body (although I really didn’t know). Of course, I was very upset. 

I’m involved in parish prayer groups. We pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet. We also organize perpetual Eucharistic Adoration. This has enabled me to meet many people from neighboring parishes, including a woman who would wind up providing me with some key insights about the moments following my son’s death. 

She told me that a priest she knew, Fr. Nick, was on the train that day. Turns out that on being informed the train had hit a man, Fr. Nick began praying for the soul of the victim. As passengers had become increasingly aggravated about the delay, Fr. Nick prayed more and more fervently for the soul of my son. He would later say that he, at first, felt great turbulence, then the turbulence gave way to a great sense of peace. He said it was a feeling he will never forget. 

Then another friend, whom I know through Eucharistic Adoration, told me that one day, at a Carmelite monastery chapel in Upstate New York, she arrived for Adoration and saw a picture of St. Faustina near the altar. She said that while in prayer, she received a message in her heart that St. Faustina had put Fr. Nick on that train. (Incidentally, the sisters in the convent don’t know how the picture of Faustina got there; and, mysteriously, it was no longer there the following day.)

Then, this past Christmas, one of my other sons gave me a DVD about St. Faustina. In one of the scenes, St. Faustina lay on her deathbed when she is bi-located to the deathbed of an old man. His bedroom is full of demons. Saint Faustina begins to pray, the demons disappear, and the man dies in peace (see Diary, 1798). 

I cannot help but to make the comparison between this and the experience of the priest on the train praying for my son Daniel.

These things give me tremendous comfort.

Harry Mooney lives in Locust Valley, New York.

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