How Céline Dion Encouraged Son René-Charles' Moving Speech at His Father's Funeral: 'I Told Him It's Not for Me or the People, It's for Your Dad'

The singer helped her oldest son prepare for the speech of a lifetime

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.

Though Céline Dion‘s 15-year-old son René-Charles moved mourners to tears with his touching eulogy at his dad’s funeral, there was a possibility that moment might have never happened.

“At first he said ‘I don’t think I can do that,’ ” Dion, 48, tells PEOPLE in this week’s cover story, opening up about the days leading up to the large televised state funeral held at Notre-Dame Basilica in Montreal for her beloved husband René Angélil, who died on Jan. 14 at age 73. When she asked him if he would speak, “RC asked, ‘Is there going to be a lot of people?’ ”

The mom then told her son, “I just want you to know your dad and I have always respected you. We respect your decision.” Though at his request, she offered him her opinion.

“This is the last time you can talk to your dad,” she said. “RC, it’s not for me or the people, it’s for your dad.”

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 Angelil: ‘It’s Not Living Without Him, It’s Living with Him Differently’

Needless to say, the teenager took her advice and took to the podium, speaking directly to Angélil, who’d died at their home just a week before from throat cancer.

“You left me with good memories to share with my younger brothers,” he said to his dad in front of his mom and 5½-year-old twin brothers Nelson and Eddy, along with thousands of others watching the ceremony. “Dad, I promise you here, we’re all going to live up to your standards.”

“I could almost hear his knee-caps shaking,” says Dion of the moment. “I was so proud of him. He was so proud of him.”

Though Dion says she still gets concerned over how her eldest is coping – “He stopped playing golf because his dad was playing golf with him I didn’t want anything in correlation with his dad to stop him from moving on” – she’s happy all her sons are on the right track.

Just four months after her husband’s death, Dion tells PEOPLE, “At night in my house, I don’t have a feeling of loss.”

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