Sunday afternoon, as Susan McGurl lay in her ruffled bed, her two young sons said goodbye.
Ryan, 10, took one of Susan's hands; Tyler, 8, took the other. Each boy kissed her hand and said, "I love you, mom."
Then they serenaded her.
They sang "Jesus Loves Me."
A friend took the children to dinner, then took them to her home and readied them for bed.
While they were gone, Susan died.
She was 41. A single parent, she had been fighting cancer for six years.
She thought she had conquered her disease with chemotherapy and mastectomies in 1991 and 1993. In September, she buried her mother, who also was a cancer victim. In October, she learned the malignancy was back _ in her lungs and liver and brain. Susan underwent radiation treatment in December. In January, she entrusted her sons to the care of friends so she could concentrate on overcoming the cancer.
"I'm here to tell you, no one is going to tell me how long I have to live, except my maker," she said. "I have a very big job here to do. I have to raise my kids. And that job's not done.
"And I will put up the best fight I can."
A former Pasco County sheriff's deputy, Susan was featured in a 1993 Times story on women cops. In December, her battle with her illness was described in another Times story.
"It's about losing all your humility, about losing all your respect," she said then. "It's about getting on your knees and saying, "Please, don't turn my lights off.' "
After the holidays, she planned to meditate, use visualization and colonic cleansing, follow a fruit and vegetable diet and exercise. "I think you have to expect to live, not settle for anything else," she said then. "This is what I want. This is what I deserve. . . . I know now I'm on a journey. It's no longer about cancer. It's not about being a cop. It's about doing the best job I can on earth. And that job is to stay healthy and be there for my sons, because they are my best accomplishment."
However, the radiation treatments and the relentless cancer wore her down. She lost her appetite. She was too weak to exercise.
Early in February, she traveled to Tijuana, Mexico, to receive the Gerson Therapy at the Hospital Meridian. She spent more than four weeks there, each day eating three vegetarian meals, drinking 13 glasses of fresh juice made from organically grown fruits and vegetables, taking vitamins, minerals and enzymes and receiving coffee enemas.
Despite her belief that she could purge her cancer, Susan's liver became enlarged. She couldn't swallow. She started to lose her vision. Her sister, Maureen Mezerewski, flew to Mexico to help Susan return to Florida.
She arrived home on Monday, March 10. Her children came home the next day.
Through the week, Susan deteriorated.
Thursday, she apologized to a visitor for failing to defeat the cancer. Her face crumbled. Tears slipped down her cheeks. "I want my mommy," she whispered.
Thursday night, her friends gathered in Susan's bedroom. The room is a confection of lace and flounces and Victorian dolls. "We were all on the bed with her, laughing, crying and laughing," said Carole Poholek.
Family members arrived through the weekend. Her friends in the neighborhood and in the Sheriff's Office came to say goodbye.
Sunday, Susan was in a coma. Her sons crowded into her room with her friends Rachel Kerr and Jeanette Egbert and with Susan Levesque, a nurse from Hernando/Pasco Hospice Inc.
The women picked up Susan's Bible. "Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life," they read.
Then they read, "Know ye that the Lord he is God. . . . Enter into his gates with thanksgiving."
Rachel climbed into the bed and cradled Susan in her arms.
The nurse, the two friends and the little boys sang several hymns.
After the children left, other friends joined Susan's father and sister at the bedside. Susan died at 9:10 p.m.
"She was so brave," said her friend Rachel. "I think she was just lying there waiting for her healing. Now she has it."
She is survived by her sons, her father, John Mezerewski of Huntington, Conn.; three brothers, John Mezerewski of Palm Harbor, Edward Mezerewski, Huntington, and Michael Mezerewski of Spring Hill; her sister, Maureen of New Port Richey; and her paternal grandparents, Edward and Olga Mezerewski of Huntington.
Visitation will take place from 2 to 4 p.m. Wednesday and from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Congress Street Chapel of Dobies Funeral Home. A funeral Mass will be offered at 11 a.m. Thursday at St. Michael Archangel Catholic Church in Hudson.
An honor guard of six to eight deputies from the Pasco Sheriff's Office will attend the visitations and the funeral.