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Céline Dion on Her Heartbreaking Goodbye to Husband René Just After His Death: I Kissed Him and Said 'Promise Me Not to Worry'

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Céline Dion opens up for the first time since losing both her husband, René Angélil, and brother Daniel Dion. Subscribe now to read how she and her family have found strength and peace, only in PEOPLE.

Céline Dion held back her tears while saying goodbye to husband René Angélil, a final show of strength to ensure the 73-year-old peace in death.

The Canadian singer tells PEOPLE in this week’s cover story that after a sweet phone call and last exchange of “I love yous,” she awoke on Jan. 14 to learn that Angélil, who was being cared for by medical staff at their Las Vegas home, had lost his battle with cancer.

After Angélil’s nurse called her to his bedside, Dion says, “I closed the door, so the children wouldn’t sense anything.”

“I got on my knees and I kissed him,” she explains. “It was the coldest thing I’ve ever experienced in my life, but it was amazing. I said, ‘Promise me not to worry. I’m fine, the kids are great, we’re gonna be okay. It’s enough suffering. Just go in peace.’ ”

Camp#233;line Dion (left) and late husband Renamp#233; Angamp#233;lil
Alex Berliner/BEImages

It was later that Dion, 48, got emotional, crying as her beloved husband’s body was removed from their home.

“When they took him away, I chased the truck a little, like it was my kids going to school for the first day,” she says.

For much more on Céline Dion’s heartbreaking loss, how she told her children, and how they are all finding the strength to go on, pick up the upcoming issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday

Dion was performing as part of her residency at the Colosseum at Caesars Palace the night before Angélil’s death. Right before leaving for the stage, she got a call from the then-73-year-old. “He said, ‘I wish you a great show, and I love you,’ ” Dion tells PEOPLE.

Later that evening, when Dion returned home, Angélil was asleep. “I didn’t want to wake him,” she says. “I should have gone and said, ‘I love you and I’m here,’ but I don’t want to live with that regret. I meant well by not waking him.”

The Story Behind the Story: Celine Dion’s Life After Loss

Camp#233;line Dion
Yu Tsai

Angélil had three separate bouts of cancer, first diagnosed in 1999. He and Dion – who returns to her Caesars Palace shows Tuesday before setting off on a European tour this summer and back in Vegas in September – shared three children, twins Nelson and Eddy Angélil, 5½, and 15-year-old René-Charles Angélil.