JACKSON, Miss. — The Mississippi man who made national news two weeks ago when he was pronounced dead and woke up in a body bag has died.
Holmes County Coroner Dexter Howard confirmed that Walter Williams, 78, died around 1 a.m. Thursday morning. He said the family seems to be handling the news well.
Williams' family knew his time was coming, but they said at the time of his near-death experience that they were just glad to get to be with him for whatever time he had left. They said they felt like God had kept him on earth an extra two weeks for a reason.
"We're at peace, we know he has fought a good fight," said his daughter, Mary Williams. "His sister was able to make it into town, and he got to see his last grandchild, and all of his grandkids. That was a blessing."
The father of 11, grandfather of 15, and great-grandfather of six had gone into hospice in late February because of congestive heart failure. He was declared dead by a coroner the first time in the early morning hours of Feb. 27 when neither the coroner or others, including nurses, could find a pulse.
The lifelong farmer was transported to the funeral home, where he began to move. An ambulance was called, and shortly thereafter, he was back in the hospital, talking to family and friends.
Williams told family members, when they asked him what his experience was like, that he thought he had just gone into a deep sleep.
"He said, 'I had to be sleeping through all this,' and we said, 'Daddy, you were dead,' " Gracie Williams, another daughter, said at the time. "This is God's work. This is God's work. And we're happy we've got a little more time with him."
In the days after Williams' awakening, his story was told around the world by national and international media. Mary Williams said the Williams family is deeply moved by the love that they felt from all over.
"We really want to thank everyone worldwide for all the prayers and the strength we felt through those prayers," she said. "You'd be surprised how many people this has touched in more ways than we can ever put our hands on. This is a testimony that will live longer than we will."
Mary Williams said her father got to see his last grandchild Sunday, and at that point he was alert and in good spirits.
"Then you could tell he got a little weaker every day," she said.
Family members said they aren't worried about whether there's a medical explanation for Walter Williams' initial brush with death, that they're just grateful he was around as long as he was.
The public, however, wanted an explanation as to how Williams didn't have a discernible pulse.
In the state of Mississippi, a hospice nurse can pronounce death, and the coroner does not actually have to visit the scene of the death. The hospice nurse simply needs to report it to the coroner and verify the time of death. Howard came to the scene and actually checked Williams' vitals after the nurses who were present.
University of Mississippi Medical Center officials said Williams appeared to have been suffering from severe hypoglycemia combined with medications administered during hospice care, which would have made it very difficult to find a pulse. He was receiving home-hospice care for end-stage cardiovascular disease and multiple underlying ailments, was severely hypoglycemic and was given medication to raise his blood sugar.
Porter and Sons Funeral Home in Lexington, Miss. — where he awoke two weeks ago — will be handling the funeral arrangements.