While her brother, who was sleeping next to her, tightly gripped her hand, Liza Burke took her final breath. She would not wake up once again.
World attention has been drawn to the story of Liza, a lovely 21-year-old University of Georgia senior who organized a final pre-graduation spring break trip to Cabo for 53 friends. While there, she had a brain bleed, and it was later discovered that she had an aggressive malignant brain tumor. It was her final trip ever.
In accordance with her mother Laura McKeithen, “her brother slept on the sofa and held her hand all night long” up until her death on April 28. As she drew her last breath, Jack held her hand.
Liza’s mother, 55, who describes her daughter as having “lived it large,” “very authentic, and unashamedly herself,” offers the following advice: “Don’t waste time worrying about stupid things. Just do it.
That served as Liza’s compass; her spirit of exploration propelled her to travel the world.
While on vacation in Cabo, Liza sent her mother images of herself performing handstands on the sand, sailing, and cliff diving. As they sang and told tales of her last night, the company gathered around a beach bonfire. She left breakfast early the next morning after working out with her beau and told pals she had a blinding headache. She went to her room to take a nap, but hours later, someone found her unconscious in bed.
When medical professionals in Mexico discovered Liza, her brain was bleeding. In order to halt the bleeding, surgeons removed a section of her skull after suspecting a ruptured Arteriovenous malformation (AVM). Flying to be with her, Liza’s mother brought her back to Florida and took her to the Mayo Clinic. After the physicians ruled out an AVM, she had a malignant brainstem tumor that was aggressive and active.
Laura recounted that when Liza first awoke from sedation, her daughter removed the ventilator from her mouth. They were concerned that she wouldn’t be able to breathe on her own, but Laura said that she was OK.
The tumor strained the part of Liza’s brain that kept her awake, making it difficult for her to go asleep.
Her mother said that while she was awake, she would squeeze my hand or move her toes to communicate. ‘Liza, are you scared?’ I asked her. She didn’t grab my hand when I asked if she was scared after asking her several other questions.
After starting the daily radiation therapy planned to last six weeks, Liza healed, allowing her loved ones to spend a few extra days with her.
She was pedaling a bike, attempting to walk, and performing squats.
But a few days later, doctors found fresh bleeding on her brain.
Discussions with Liza’s medical team started because Liza’s mother wanted to prevent another intubation and because of Liza’s contagious spirit.
If Liza’s headaches from her freshman year of college were antecedents to the brain tumor, Laura wondered if they had been identified sooner. Was her daughter all right?
Laura recalled asking Liza’s oncologist, “Do you think things could have been different if we had caught this when she first told me that she thought there was something wrong in her head?” when they were speaking.
The doctor looked around the woman’s decorated room and said, “Well, I can tell you one thing for sure: She wouldn’t have all of these pictures,” adding that the room was “full, full, full, full of pictures of her and her friends.” After that, he allegedly said to Laura, “We would eventually be exactly where we are right now.”
The family discovered that the treatment was failing and suggested hospice care, so Laura had to hunt for a facility where she was confident her daughter would be happy.
Her mother remembered thinking, “She would want to be somewhere lovely, where she could be with her friends and family, and everybody could celebrate her, and she could be outside and enjoy the beach or the mountains.”
Laura chose a beachfront Airbnb and rented it for a month after making sure the owners were fine with it being used for hospice care. On April 19, Liza and her immediate family moved into the house, which was frequently visited by friends and grandparents.
Liza was awake at the time but unable to talk. According to Laura, her daughter communicated by “a little gesture with her mouth or her eyelids, but she would wiggle her toes.”
On April 27, everyone showed up to see the Matthew McConaughey and Jessica Chastain film Interstellar.
After the movie, Laura gave her bedroom an explanation for her decision and said, “I knew if I were with her, I would probably drive her crazy, staring at her and squeezing her hand and squeezing her toes and kissing her.”
On Friday at around two in the morning, Liza passed away in bed next to her brother Jack.
Liza let out her final breath, let out a sigh, and then she stepped into the next dimension. “Liza has now been reunited with her sister, and they are making up for lost time,” Laura said. Liza’s older sister Edie went suddenly in 2008 as a result of the uncommon genetic disorder MPS1.
Laura said in her online journal about her wounded heart, “If I could, I would hang onto Liza and follow her.”
Laura received Liza’s letter to her future self, a class assignment from her senior year of high school, in the mail on May 2. The teacher promised to mail the letters to the students when they graduated from college. Liza will graduate on May 12, 2023.
It was magnificent. Laura said, “She did it all. It will be recited aloud at my funeral.
Laura plans to spread some of Liza’s ashes in Mexico and others in the mountains. The cremation of Liza.
Although cancer took her life, it didn’t stop her from moving forward. Laura remembered her daughter as a strong, fearless, free-spirited, and happy young woman. Her life was full.
Her legacy is to make the most of every day. She lived a good life, and I want everyone to know that. I wish I had the same level of success in life as she does.
The Liza and Edie Burke Education Fund is being supported by donations from her mother in order to “honor two sisters and the genuine, dynamic, playful, and fierce way they gave back to the world.”
Liza’s passing is very heartbreaking. She had a promising future and was still so young. In this sad time, we express our condolences to the family, especially Laura, who lost her second daughter.