SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — It was a heart-wrenching homecoming for the family of a Sacramento woman whose remains were returned from South Korea after she died of the flu.

Clutching the urn of her daughter’s remains, Kathy Ruiz is understandably sad, but glad to be home after a long, tough journey.

Dozens of Andrea Godina’s family members were at Sacramento International Airport for the emotional reunion, wearing shirts with her picture and holding welcome signs, as her mother and aunt returned from Korea with her ashes.

“It’s sad because we wish we could have been here like this for my sister there, but we are here now and she’s coming home,” her sister said.

Godina got sick with the flu while she was teaching English in South Korea. Within days the infection spread.

“I booked my flight thinking I would be taking her home to watch her for a month,” Ruiz said. “Then the very next phone call was she died, she’s dead.”

That was Jan. 19, six days after she fell ill.

The family says the Korean hospital would not release her remains until her medical and cremation expenses were paid—more than $20,000 total.

“They said they were just going to leave her there until they got paid,” Ruiz said.

The family started fundraising with several car washes and spreading the word on social media. People from all over the country responded, raising almost $30,000 in just a few days.

A community coming together to help a family that never got to say goodbye.

“It’s amazing to get here and to be able to finally have her home to be able to celebrate her life,” Ruiz said.

A memorial service for the 32-year-old will be held this Saturday at Capital Christian Center in Sacramento.


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