“WHENEVER I smile I will always think of your face”.
The words of the incredibly brave 11-year-old Connie Letts-Jones, who stood up in front of hundreds of people at the funeral of her mum Joanne yesterday to pay the perfect tribute.
Just moments later her younger sister, Millie, just eight, followed suit.
The St Cuthbert’s Primary School pupil somehow held back tears as she said: “Mammy, I love you and you love me.
“I will always remember your kisses at night, one day we will meet again in heaven, I love you.”
Tears rolled down the cheeks of Joanne’s devastated family and friends, as they still struggle to come to terms with her death aged just 35.
Joanne had spent 20 minutes cradling her precious newborn son Riley Jeff Jo at the University Hospital of North Tees alongside her loving husband Anthony before she was taken to theatre to have routine surgery to remove her placenta.
Just 40 minutes later Anthony was faced by medics giving him the heartbreaking news that his wife had suffered a cardiac arrest.
Despite the best efforts of doctors, Joanne died nine hours later.
Yesterday, as hundreds paid their last respects to Joanne at St Patrick’s Church, in Owton Manor Lane, Anthony battled tears as he addressed the people who cared for her so much.
“To my beautiful wife Joanne,” said Anthony, 33, who lives in Kingsley Avenue.
“All I ever wanted to do was make you happy.
“Your smile was breathtaking, you were so beautiful, loving, caring, happy.
“The times we shared together can never be taken away.
“Don’t worry about our children, they have your strength and I will tell Riley all about you.
“Joanne, you were the love of my life and my best friend.”
Father Adrian Tuckwell, who led the service, summed up what everyone in the church was thinking, saying: “I only met this incredible family on Tuesday but I can safely say I have never, ever met a family like it, a family with such strength.
Connie, who is due to start at English Martyrs RC School and Sixth Form College next month, added: “I will make you proud mam, I will fulfil your wishes.”
The doors of the church were open and the hundreds who attended spilled outside, such was the popularity of Joanne, who worked at St Cuthbert’s Primary School.
And as all of her loving family and friends left the service to the sound of Smile, by Take That, Father Tuckwell urged everyone to remember all of the good times and to take strength in the strength of Joanne’s amazing family.