A HEARTBROKEN Mansfield woman whose two young grandchildren have been left parentless after the death of their mother has promised to give them the ‘best life possible’.
Forty-four-year-old Debra Bennett lost an eight-month battle against lung cancer in April - just three-and-a-half years after her husband John (51) died after suffering a heart attack in November 2007.
The double tragedy means her children John (9) and Jessica (12) will be looked after by Debra’s sister Jayne Wombwell, supported by their close-knit family including grandmother Hazel - who said her daughter was ‘happy and bubbly’ and always had a smile on her face’.
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“She was a lovely person who was always happy and wore a smile on her face each day,” said Hazel. “Her life was her children, playing bingo and socialising.
“She showed such strength and courage when she was ill and never complained once, she just wanted to be there at home for her children for as long as possible.”
Debra was diagnosed with lung cancer in August last year when doctors gave her between three and five months to live.
But she battled the cancer for eight months as her family held a round-the-clock vigil round her bedside in the final weeks of her life before she died on 15th April at her home on the Ladybrook estate.
“She told me that she was going to die but told me not to bury my head in the sand because she wanted us all to be strong,” added Hazel.
“I’m devastated, I feel numb, you don’t expect to lose your daughter when she is 44.
“It is very hard for a mother to take but we are a very close family and we will all look after John and Jessica.”
The children will move in with Hazel’s daughter Jayne, who also lives in Mansfield along with younger sister Yvonne and brother David.
“What she went through was unbelievable, she had got her life back on track after losing John,” said Jayne, who also has two children of her own. She showed such strength to pick herself and gave everything to her kids, she was always talking about things she had planned for the children.
“The way she dealt with it was that John had come to fetch her. His ashes are in the garden and that is where she wanted her ashes to be spread so she could be with him.
“We spoke about where the children would go and she said that ‘although you can’t choose your family, even if you could I would choose you as my sister’.
“You never think you’re going to have that conversation about who would look after the kids if something happened but we decided the kids should come to me.
“To sit down with John and tell him that his mum was going to die was the hardest thing I have ever done in my life.
“The children have taken it in their stride. I’m sure there may be times when Jessica may be crying because she misses her mum but I’ll be there for her to let her know that she is not on her own.”
Debra was a former Queen Elizabeth’s School pupil and also worked at William Hill before leaving to spend more time with her children.
“Debra told us to talk about her every day to the children and have a cup of tea and cake on her birthday every year, which is what we will do,” added Jayne.
“She told us to always keep smiling and keep our spirits up because that’s the sort of person she was, always bubbly and always happy.”