"It was the saddest and happiest day of my life at once," the young woman said about the day she became a wife.
To have her mother, beaming with pride, as she walked down the aisle was how Nell Cordukes always imagined her wedding day to be. Now, the 24-year-old woman will always remember October 2, 2019 as a day that brought her both joy and despair at the same time.
Nell's mother, Becky Best was a mother of four, who separated from Nell's father in 2012. "Mum had the biggest heart and always put everyone else first," Nell said. The mother had even given up her job as a teacher to care for her sons, Thomas and Harry, who have chronic fatigue syndrome and autism respectively.
"She adored my brothers but it was stressful looking after them and she was on anti-depressants, which I think may have masked her brain tumour symptoms," Nell said about her mother, who worked as an assistant manager at a farm park, according to The Sun. "One day Mum was struggling to remember the right words for things."
Becky's condition started deteriorating in the days that followed and on June 18, she was rushed to the hospital.
"She was disorientated and stressed, and didn’t really know where she was or what was happening to her. She couldn’t walk without us supporting her," Nell said.
When Nell was told that her mother had a brain tumor, Nell recalled, "We couldn’t take it in. We were all devastated."
Although Becky's battle against the tumor was short, it extremely difficult and included a six-hour operation along with intensive treatment.
Through it all, Becky had one wish and that was to see her daughter, Nell get married to 29-year-old Matt. "Mum loved Matt and was always dropping heavy hints about it being time we got married," Nell said, who had been in a relationship with Matt for six years. "She jokingly said, 'Well, now I’m ill you’d better get married now'."
It was on July 20, 2019, that Matt proposed to Nell and Becky was delighted when she found out. "Mum was so happy when we told her," said Nell. "She thought she was going to get better for the wedding and said she had to buy a new dress."
They wasted no time and quickly planned everything so that Becky could be there on her daughter's big day. "We took her to the wedding dress shop in her wheelchair and I tried on my gown for her," said Nell. "She was so tired but her face lit up with her beautiful smile when she saw me do a twirl in my mermaid-style sparkly dress for her."
Her mother even wanted to write a speech for the wedding, and did so with help from Nell's sister, Camille.
"She told me how happy she was I was marrying Matt," Nell recalled. But it started becoming evident that Becky wouldn't be able to hold on for much longer. "Every time I left the room, even for a few minutes, I said goodbye to her," Nell said.
The night before her wedding, Nell chose to stay with her mother and Camille.
"I got up at 5am and just sat with Mum holding her hand and talking to her about getting married," said Nell. "I kept telling her that I loved her that it was OK to let go now - that we’d be fine and I’d look after my brothers."
Then, Nell left for the wedding venue and a couple of hours later, she received a call she didn't want to pick up. Her mother passed away at the age of 56, just hours before Nell was to become a bride.
"My heart was breaking but I knew the wedding had to go on – like Mum would have wanted," Nell shared. "I texted some people to let them know but most guests turned up unaware. The worst part was when my aunty had to tell Mum’s 90-year-old dad when he arrived as we couldn’t get hold of him beforehand."
Pushing through the grief, Nell walked down the aisle and got married to the man she loved. "It was so emotional but I tried to focus on my vows to Matt as mum adored him and was so happy we were getting married," she said. "It was a lovely sunny day after weeks of rain which felt like her blessing... It was the saddest and happiest day of my life at once."
On an empty chair at the reception, a framed photograph of Becky was also kept and guests were able to listen to the mother's speech, read out by Camille.
"It was tough and a little part of me felt guilty for going ahead with the wedding," said Nell. "But we knew those were Mum’s wishes which helped us get through the day as best we could."
Nell is now determined to raise awareness about the "cruel disease".
"I’m still trying to process that my mum died just three months after being diagnosed with this cruel disease. And the worst thing was that nothing could be done to save her life – we had no hope," Nell went on to say. "I’ve been robbed of having my mum at my wedding day or seeing her hold my babies in her arms one day. That’s why I’m now driven to help The Brain Tumour Charity raise awareness and funds so that other families don’t go through our heartache."
Requesting donations,the family wrote on JustGiving that Becky "would love to know that people had donated to a charity that help people like her... Please donate as little or as much as you like, any amount is appreciated."