Céline Dion on Losing Her Husband and Brother to Cancer in the Same Week: 'René Escorted My Brother. It Was Perfect'

The singer looks back on the back-to-back tragedies that shook her world

Photo: Yu Tsai

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.

Earlier this year, tragedy struck twice for Céline Dion in the matter of a week.

Just two days after her beloved husband René Angélil died from throat cancer at 73, her older brother, Daniel Dion, 59, followed him, dying of brain, throat and tongue cancer back in Montreal.

Despite being shaken by the terrible series of events, Dion, 48, now sees the silver lining. “René escorted my brother,” she tells PEOPLE in this week’s issue. “It was perfect.”

Had her brother died before Angélil, Dion worries that she would have been with her family in Montreal when René died. “What happens to my children if my husband passes away while I’m gone?” she ponders.

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

Céline Dion on Life Since Losing Husband René Angélil: ‘It’s Not Living Without Him, It’s Living with Him Differently’

As fate would have it, her brother, who had long battled the disease, died on what would have been Angélil’s 74th birthday. “He took him under his wings,” says Dion of her husband, “and he said ‘You know, I’ll take good care of him.'”

Still, Dion says, “It was hard for my mom.” Her 89-year-old mother Thérése, received some much-needed words of encouragement from her youngest daughter.

“I said, ‘You know what Mom? You gave birth and you took him back. You took his hand from the beginning to the end,'” adding that her mother would not have been able to die in peace knowing she’d left behind a son who was sick. “Me,” says Dion, reflecting on her own kids, “if I see one of my son’s dying and I know he’s gonna die, I want to be there to give him a hand. Then I’ll deal with my own feelings.”

Dion’s mother was able to take heart. Despite her own ailments – she’s hard of hearing and nearly blind from macular degeneration – the mother of 14 children, “is a very, very strong person,” says Dion. “Just to give you an example, my dad didn’t want to have kids!”

Now, Dion says, “She seems really well.”

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