Woman gets dying wish to see parents

NORTH AUGUSTA --- All Karen Flores wants for Christmas is to see her parents one more time.

The last time she saw them, the 23-year-old North Augusta woman was leaving Honduras for the United States, where she planned to make enough money to make a better life for her family and then return home.

That was three years ago, long before she was diagnosed with the liver cancer that will soon claim her life.

Late Wednesday night, just in time for Christmas, Misael and Margarita Flores arrived in North Augusta.

Ms. Flores had her doubts that she would get her Christmas wish, saying she would believe it when she saw it. Once before, she thought they were coming, but their application for a visa was denied by the U.S. government.

Too sick to fly home, Ms. Flores had no hope of seeing them again without the help of her Our Lady of Peace Catholic Church family.

The Rev. Tim Lijewski, church members and Eric Muhlbaier of Aiken Regional Medical Centers wrote letters to the U.S. consulate asking it to grant Ms. Flores' parents a humanitarian visa to visit their daughter, who has already outlived her doctors' prognosis.

The Rev. Lijewski assumed responsibility for the couple and assured the consulate that they would return to Honduras. He got word a week ago that their visas had been approved.

"She has so much faith," the Rev. Lijewski said, teary-eyed. "It seems like seeing them means more to her than dying."

Church members raised more than $5,000 to fly the Floreses to the United States and provide for them while they are here.

On Tuesday night, before her parents' arrival, a frail Ms. Flores, wrapped in a thick winter coat despite the house's warmth, spoke about them in a thin, breathy voice.

"They're humble," she said in Spanish, translated by fellow church member Angie Mallar. "They're most important. They are the best parents in the world."

They are staying with the family of Rodrigo and Mayra Azofeifa, Costa Ricans who have welcomed Miss Flores into their home and their hearts in the four weeks she has been out of the hospital.

"She's a person who needed help; and we believe in God; and we know that if we help her we're helping God, too," Mr. Azofeifa said through Mrs. Mallar.

The Hispanic ministry at the church, headed up by Conchita Antunez and Amalia Garcia, provides volunteers to care for Ms. Flores 24 hours a day to lessen the burden on the Azofeifa family.

Ms. Antunez and Ms. Garcia bathe her, and others help with anything else she might need.

"Even though her parents are going to be here, there are still going to be people coming (to help)," Ms. Antunez said through Mrs. Mallar.

Ms. Flores said through Mrs. Mallar that her parents' arrival was a gift from God.

"We all think that God was keeping it for a Christmas gift," Mrs. Mallar said. "Baby Jesus will bring her a big gift."

Reach Lisa Kaylor at (706) 828-3904 or lisa.kaylor@northaugustatoday.com.