July 02, 2019
Bernie Mac, the comedian better known for his role on “The Bernie Mac Show,” “Ocean’s Eleven,” and “Charlie’s Angels,” died at age 50 from complications with pneumonia. His widow, and his sister-in-law, once recalled the star’s last moments before his passing.
Although he had suffered from sarcoidosis—an immune system disorder that can attack the lungs—from most of his life, the disease was in remission since 2005.
However, his immune system was already compromised, and when he got an infection and took some medication that suppresses the immune system, he caught pneumonia. He was hospitalized and placed on a ventilator two weeks before his passing.
According to Mac’s sister-in-law, Mary Ann Grossett, the actor had a running fever and trouble breathing. “He was critically ill when he was in the hospital,” Gossett told People days before Mac’s death. “He was in intensive care the whole time.”
Although doctors had Mac sedated, he last communicated with his wife Rhonda McCullough, on July 31.
“I said, ‘I’m here. I’m waiting for you. I’ll take care of you. Just don’t, don’t die. Don’t die.’”
“He told his wife [non-verbally] that he could breathe on his own, and he wanted the ventilator out. He motioned that he wanted it out,” Grossett recalled.
However, Mac’s condition didn’t get better.
The night before his passing, he was struggling for his life. Grossett described a heartbreaking moment between Mac and her sister:
“He opened his eyes on his own and looked at Rhonda. She called his name, and he opened his eyes and nodded to her. She smiled at him and told him, ‘Don’t leave me ‘I’m waiting for you to come back.’ He shrugged his shoulders, and she said that’s when she knew he was tired. He signaled to her that his body was tired.”
On August 8, doctors had tried to put a feeding tube into Mac when his heart stopped. He had to be resuscitated.
Talking about the painful experience in Oprah’s “Where Are They Now,” Rhonda recalled what happened when she went back into the room after Mac was almost gone.
“I said, ‘Please don’t, don’t die,’” she said, sobbing at the memory. “I said, ‘I’m here. I’m waiting for you. I’ll take care of you. Just don’t, don’t die. Don’t die.’”
Hours later, Mac went into cardiac arrest for a second time and didn’t make it back.
Rhonda knew when she saw the doctor standing at the door. “I looked at her, and I said, ‘He’s gone, isn’t he?’ She [nodded].”
Rhonda, who married Mac when she was 19, and he was 20, was utterly devastated.
“My whole life was him since I was 16,” she said. “I didn’t know what I was gonna do. It’s like, what is my reasoning for being here now? What is my purpose? How am I going to make it now?”
Although it wasn’t easy for Rhonda to move on, she eventually found solace in taking the reins of the Bernie Mac Foundation, which the comic started a year before his passing to raise awareness and help other people that, like him suffered from sarcoidosis.
“What better way to have his legacy live on?” Rhonda said. “The foundation means to me everything that Bernard was and that he wanted.”
“What she will treasure the most is the fact that she was his wife for 30 years – and not only was she his wife, but she was his best friend,” Mary Ann said of her widow sister. “She’s going to miss him dearly.”
Bernie Mac is still remembered as one of the greatest comedians in the entertainment industry ten years after his death.
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