08/19/2005 at 07:00 AM EDT
Cindy Sheehan, the California mother of an American soldier killed in Iraq, has discontinued her two-week-old vigil outside President Bush's Crawford, Texas, ranch in order to be with her mother, who's suffered a stroke, she told reporters – assuring them that her protest of the war would go on.
Sheehan, 48, said she had just received the phone call and was leaving immediately to be with her mother, Shirley Miller, 74, at a Los Angeles hospital. "I'll be back as soon as possible, if it's possible," she said before heading to the airport Thursday.
Sheehan, whose 24-year-old son, Casey, died in Iraq, said the makeshift campsite off the road leading to Bush's ranch will remain. The camp has grown to more than 100 people, including many relatives of soldiers killed in Iraq.
Sheehan had pledged to remain at the camp until Bush met with her to discuss the war – or until his 5-week vacation ended. Her protest inspired candlelight vigils across the country Wednesday night.
Bush has said he sympathizes with Sheehan. White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said earlier Thursday that Bush said Sheehan has a right to protest but that he did not plan to change his schedule and meet with her. Bush is scheduled to return to Washington on Sept. 3.
Michelle Mulkey, a spokeswoman for Sheehan, said Sheehan hopes to be back in Texas in a day or two, depending on her mother's condition.