UGA senior “drew her last breath,” ending her six-week struggle with a brain tumor, with her brother’s hand firmly grasping hers.

A Light Extinguished: Remembering Liza Burke
In the stillness of the night, 21-year-old Liza Burke succumbed to a malignant brain tumor. With her brother Jack by her side, holding her hand, she embarked on her final journey, leaving behind a world of sorrow, loss, and fond memories.

The Life of Liza Burke

A promising senior at the University of Georgia, Liza Burke was a radiant young woman with a zest for life. Her vibrant personality and passion for adventure drew people towards her, creating a social circle that transcended borders. It was on a pre-graduation trip to Cabo with 53 friends, a trip she planned, that her life took a sudden, tragic turn.

Laura McKeithen, Liza’s mother, recalled her daughter’s vivacious life with a hint of sorrow. She remembered her as a spirited woman who lived life on her terms, embracing every moment with open arms and an open heart. Laura’s words of wisdom reflect Liza’s life ethos, “Don’t squander moments on trivialities. Pursue life.”

The Unforgettable Trip

Liza’s carefree and adventurous nature was evident in her spring break activities. She regaled her mother with pictures of her performing handstands on the beach, boating, and cliff diving. However, what started as an adventurous trip, soon turned into a nightmare.

Liza was found unconscious in her room hours after she left her friends, complaining of an excruciating headache. The joyous group gathering around the beach bonfire, sharing stories and singing, had no idea of the ordeal that awaited them.

Diagnosis and Treatment
Doctors in Mexico found that Liza was suffering from a brain hemorrhage, initially suspecting a ruptured Arteriovenous malformation (AVM). To control the bleeding, part of her skull was removed. Liza’s mother flew down to be by her daughter’s side, bringing her back to Florida for further treatment at the Mayo Clinic. It was here that the grim reality was revealed; Liza had an aggressive malignant brainstem tumor.

Laura remembered the determination Liza showed when she woke from sedation, removing her ventilator and fighting to breathe on her own. Liza faced the insurmountable challenge posed by the tumor that interfered with her sleep with remarkable courage.

The Fight Continues
Liza showed signs of improvement after starting a daily radiation treatment scheduled for six weeks. She was making efforts to walk, doing squats, and even cycling. However, a sudden discovery of new bleeding in her brain marked the beginning of another battle.

Laura started questioning if Liza’s migraines, which she started experiencing in her first year of college, were early signs of the tumor. If the signs had been recognized earlier, could things have been different? However, the oncologist was firm that the current situation was inevitable. The only difference, he noted, would have been the absence of the precious moments Liza shared with her friends, which were captured in the numerous photos that adorned her room.

Final Days
With the treatment failing, hospice care was recommended. Laura sought a place where Liza would be happy, a place where friends and family could be around her, celebrating her life. They found a seaside Airbnb, where they moved in on April 19, creating memories with Liza till her last breath.

Although she couldn’t speak, Liza communicated through tiny gestures and movements. On April 27, everyone gathered for a movie night, after which Liza was left to rest with her brother. In the early hours of April 28, Liza took her final breath.

A Legacy of Love and Courage
As Laura put it, “Liza may have crossed to the other side, but she is now reunited with her sister Edie, who passed away in 2008 from a rare genetic condition called MPS1.” Laura’s grief was palpable when she admitted, “If I could, I would hold onto Liza and follow her.”

A letter that Liza wrote to her future self, a high school project that arrived in the mail after her death, was a poignant reminder of the vibrant young woman she was. The young woman who lived each day to the fullest, irrespective of the circumstances.

A Lasting Legacy
In memory of her courageous daughter, Laura plans to spread Liza’s ashes in the mountains and perhaps some in Mexico, places that held a special place in Liza’s heart. Her spirit may have been extinguished, but her influence remains.

Liza’s legacy is a testament to her daring, adventurous, and vivacious life. Her story serves as an inspiration to all, a stark reminder to seize each day as Liza did. To honor her memory, donations can be made to The Liza and Edie Burke Education Fund, which encapsulates the essence of the two sisters and their generous contribution to society.

The passing of Liza Burke is a tragedy that has left many in grief, especially her mother Laura, who mourns the loss of her second daughter. Our deepest condolences go out to them in this challenging time.

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