Following a University of Georgia student’s death from a brain tumor found during a spring break vacation, her mother is speaking out about the 21-year-old’s final moments.
In an emotional interview published Thursday, Laura McKeithen told People that daughter Liza Burke “lived life” to the fullest despite the tumor, which doctors identified in March after Burke experienced a brain bleed on a trip to Mexico.
Burke reportedly spent nine days in hospice care prior to her death last week. Describing the North Carolina-born college senior as “fearless,” McKeithen said her daughter was holding hands with older brother Jack when she “drew her last breath.”
“Her brother slept on the sofa and held her hand all night long,” said McKeithen.
The mother, who had gone to her own bedroom that night, added, “I knew if I was with her, I would probably drive her crazy, staring at her and squeezing her hand and squeezing her toes and kissing her.”
According to media reports, Burke was about four days into her Cabo San Lucas vacation when she began complaining of a severe headache and blurred vision. Hours after retreating to a hotel room for a nap, she was found unresponsive and transported to a local hospital, where doctors discovered the brain bleed.
Watch a WJXT report on Liza Burke:
Burke was later moved from the hospital to the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida, where an aggressive tumor was identified in her brainstem.
Though early reports suggested she’d shown signs of recovery following treatment, her family decided to cease radiation in mid-April after doctors said there’d been no significant improvement in her condition.
“Astronomers have determined that the brightest, hottest, and most active stars have the shortest lifespans,” reads an obituary for Burke. “Liza is like one of those brightest stars. In her short time here, she gave off an extraordinary amount of light, energy, and love. Her life serves a reminder to go through life unapologetically, take chances, speak and act boldly, cherish the little things, laugh often, and to stay present.”
McKeithen echoed those sentiments in her interview with People, noting that Burke’s tumor “may have taken her life, but it didn’t slow her down.”
“What I want people to know is that she freaking did life well,” the mother said. “I wish that I could do my life as well as she’s done in her life.”