November 20, 2020

In thanksgiving: The power of prayer is a blessing in a mother’s journey home

The prayers of family and friends were instrumental in helping Grace Krokos, mother of Criterion editor Mike Krokos, overcome a life-threatening health crisis in Ecuador earlier this year. Pictured, Grace, left; grandchildren Stephen and Elizabeth; and her son Mike. (Submitted photo by Madeline Krokos)

The prayers of family and friends were instrumental in helping Grace Krokos, mother of Criterion editor Mike Krokos, overcome a life-threatening health crisis in Ecuador earlier this year. Pictured, Grace, left; grandchildren Stephen and Elizabeth; and her son Mike. (Submitted photo by Madeline Krokos)

By Mike Krokos

As I ended the conversation with my cousin Tatiana, I was numb.

She had just informed me that my mother was admitted to a hospital in Quito, Ecuador, with a pulmonary embolism and kidney infection.

“The prognosis is grave,” she warned me on that March evening.

Here in Indiana, we had just begun to see the early effects of the coronavirus pandemic. A few days earlier, public Masses had been suspended, the Archbishop Edward O’Meara Catholic Center in Indianapolis and archdiocesan agencies were shut down until further notice, and our daughter’s high school and son’s elementary school had closed their school buildings. Online classes would become the norm for the next several weeks—and beyond.

And now, my family had to deal with a health crisis thousands of miles away. Mom, who had moved in 2018 close to our home, was on vacation visiting her sisters when she fell ill.

I have a diverse family history, a family built on our Catholic faith. My late dad, Joseph Anthony Krokos, was from Pennsylvania, where his father was a coal miner. Our Polish roots were evident in the faith, food and fellowship that were at the heart of so many celebrations.

Grace Pilar Krokos, aka Mom, is a native of Guayaquil, Ecuador. She and Dad met when she was a college student in Madrid, Spain, and Dad was in the Air Force, stationed there.

Like the Krokos clan, the Robinson family—my Mom’s side—embraced our faith, food and time together as well. My cousins were and continue to be like siblings. Their prayers—along with so many others—would be needed.

There is an irony here: Mom is a faith-filled woman, and she is almost always the first person our family reaches out to when they need prayers. Now, it was our turn to take the lead.

As my wife Madeline and I began to reach out to family members, I wondered if I would ever see Mom again. Tears streamed down my face as I pondered that possibility.

I knew surgery was to be performed in a few days, but what would be the outcome? I have never experienced a more helpless feeling than not being able to be there with Mom.

As my stress mounted, I turned to friends and co-workers for petitions as well.

My colleagues at the Catholic Center have always been prayer warriors. I can name not only people in my office, but people throughout archdiocesan agencies who have always stepped up when I have asked for prayers. This time was no different. That is one of the blessings of working for the Church.

Our home parish, St. Louis de Montfort in Fishers, Ind. (in the Lafayette Diocese), has a perpetual adoration chapel. Although it was closed in mid-March because of COVID-19, our priests, in their wisdom, moved the tabernacle with the Blessed Sacrament inside the doorway under the carport at the front entrance of the church. Parishioners were able to drive up and adore the Blessed Sacrament in the tabernacle from their cars. Adoration is a gift in times like these. As you open your heart to God, being in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament offers peace. It did for me.

Several restless nights at home followed, then more time spent in prayer with each new day. Finally, the surgery was performed. I received a call from my cousin: everything went well, and the prognosis was good.

Mom would require several days of rehabilitation, and if all went well, she would be discharged.

Ten days later, Mom was back at my aunt’s home in Quito.

Now a new challenge arose: Getting her back to the United States.

It was early April, and international flights to and from the U.S. were nowhere to be found because of COVID-19. In fact, countless flights—no matter where you looked across the globe—were cancelled.

My cousin Johnny, who is an international traveler, encouraged us to reach out to the U.S. embassy in Quito about travel.

The folks there were helpful, encouraging us to visit the embassy’s website each day to see updated travel plans.

We then asked family and friends to begin a new petition: getting Mom home in a reasonable time frame so she could be with us in Indiana.

Initially, daily visits to the embassy website and occasional e-mails from them were fruitless.

Finally, two weeks after we began the process, a flight was scheduled from Quito to Fort Lauderdale, Fla. We quickly purchased a ticket, knowing that my mom would be back in the States—albeit in Florida—in a week.

Providentially, my brother Paul and his family live in Fort Myers, and they were happy to pick Mom up in Fort Lauderdale and have her quarantine at their home for two weeks.

Finally, the last week of April, Mom was “back home in Indiana.”

While others will remember 2020 for the COVID-19 pandemic, a tumultuous presidential election and for other front-page headlines, my family and I will remember the prayers from so many that were with us in our time of need.

Those prayers, we believe, are the main reason Mom is home with us, sharing her faith with the many people she loves.

(Mike Krokos is editor of The Criterion, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.)

 

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