Monday, August 11, 2008
Bernie Mac's Final Hour
The following article comes from People Magazine
Bernie Mac’s wife and daughter were with him until the very end, says the late comic's sister-in-law in a personal and touching interview with PEOPLE that took place Saturday.
Speaking of a heartbreaking moment between her younger sister, Rhonda, and the 50-year-old actor-comedian – who succumbed to complications from pneumonia in a Chicago hospital at 2 a.m. Saturday – Mary Ann Grossett says that the night before Mac died, "He struggled for his life. He couldn't breathe.
"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."
Mac suffered from sarcoidosis, an inflammatory lung disease that produces tiny lumps of cells in the body's organs, but had said the condition went into remission in 2005. He recently was hospitalized and treated for pneumonia, which his publicist said was not related to the disease.
Mac's family had expected him to fully recover from the bout of pneumonia that put him in a hospital three weeks ago, his daughter said Sunday. However, Je'niece Childress said that as time passed she and her mother braced for the possibility that he could die.
Childress said Mac had been at Northwestern Memorial Hospital since the middle of July.
"Initially when he was hospitalized we expected him to come back home, but as the weeks went on, I kind of knew," Childress told The Associated Press.
Mac, born Bernard Jeffrey McCullough in Chicago, got his start doing standup as a child. His successful career included his own Fox television series, "The Bernie Mac Show" and starring roles in "Ocean's Eleven," "Bad Santa," "Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle" and "Transformers."
Childress said Mac, who maintained a home in the south Chicago suburb of Frankfort, was a loving father, husband and grandfather. Childress, 30, is his only child, and has a 1-year-old daughter. She said her mother, Rhonda McCullough, and Mac were married for 32 years.
"He was a hard man and he made no apologies for that," Childress said. "When it came to me and my mother and my daughter he was the softest."
Recently, Mac's brand of comedy caught him some flack when he joked about menopause, sexual infidelity and promiscuity at a July fundraiser for Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama. Obama's campaign later said the jokes were "inappropriate."
"I kind of figured he was going to get a lot of backlash," Childress said. "Telling that joke at that time probably wasn't the best idea, but that's him."
Children said there was always laughter in their home.
"Because that's just who he was," Childress said. "I'm sad that my daughter will never know or be able to feel how much he loved her."
"I think he will always be remembered as one of the original kings of comedy," Childress said. "I think what made him so special to people was that even though he was a celebrity he just seemed so down to earth and so much like a part of your family."
She said funeral arrangements were pending. Smith said a public memorial would be held next weekend at House of Hope in Chicago.