DIY SOS tragedy as orphans discovered mother had died before another cruel twist
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Three brothers experienced the greatest tragedy any child can face.
Ruben, 17, Jaden, 11, and Uche, 10 became orphans in the most heartbreaking of circumstances in April 2017.
And it was the youngest who was first to make a devastating discovery that would turn their lives completely upside down.
Single mum Carrie Smedley tragically died suddenly in her sleep at the age of just 32-years-old.
It was her youngest son Uche, who was only six at the time, who found Carrie and heartbreakingly tried to wake her up.
"It was actually Uche that had found her, he was six. He and Jaden just thought they couldn’t wake mummy up," explains grandmother Lynn.
While the younger boys were too young to understand what had happened, eldest brother Ruben realised their mum had died and protected his little siblings.
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Ruben, who Lynn describes as "a little protector", took his brothers to a family relative so
"They got their big brother Ruben, he came upstairs and realised what had happened. For those two little boys to have had to found their mum like that," says Lynn.
“Ruben, who was 13 at the time, went straight to my mum’s who lives not even five minutes away.
"They’re never going to forget not being able to wake her up and Reuben will never forget not being able to save her. I knew I had to do something for these boys. They’re my priority now.”
With the family dealing with the unimaginable, they were dealt another cruel twist of fate.
The three boys were orphaned at such a young age
Grandparents Lynn and Steve Smedley were looking forward to their retirement after dedicating their lives to given vulnerable kids a second chance at life.
The couple fostered more than 100 children over 15 years, from premature babies with cerebal palsy through to teenage mothers.
They had planned to retire together in their bungalow in Carbis Bay, Cornwall before the devastating tragedy struck.
Lynn was at work when Steve rang to say he was coming to see her and revealed their daughter had died.
Traumatised Lynn went straight to Carrie's house, then went to get her grandsons, with no chance that they would live anywhere else.
Just two days after Carrie died, Steve was made redundant.
Lynn and Steve took their grandsons into their home after the death of Carrie
With the lives of their grandson's shattered, Lynn and Steve took care of the boys and they became a tight family unit.
However, they were are forced to live on top of each other in a two-bedroom bungalow, which created "extra stresses"
The boys were squeezed into a single room and slept in a triple bunk bed – meaning they had no place for themselves to enjoy alone time or grieve for their mother.
Brave Ruben even offered to find somewhere else to live so that his grandparents would not have the burden, but there was no doubt in their minds over whether he would stay.
"There’s no way in a million years we’d let them go anywhere else," says Steve.
Ruben spoke about missing his mum
Ruben admitted he regretted not spending a lot of time with his mother when he became a teenager.
"When I turned 13 I never got out of my bedroom. I regret that, I never got to spend time with my mum," he tells presenter Nick Knowles during an emotional chat.
"I’ll never forget her because she’s my mum but I try to think of the good times. I never really think it’s just about me or my brothers. It’s about everyone. It’s about my Nan and Grandad and just the family."
Ruben's younger brothers say they love him because he sticks up for them and is always there for support.
Lynn even offered up her own bedroom for Ruben in the evenings so he could have some time away from his little brothers.
Lynn pictured with her grandsons and daughter
There were no better candidates for the DIY SOS team to come to the rescue of back in 2019.
There was a mixture of emotions when Lynn got the call to reveal they would be on the show.
She was thrilled that it would make all their lives much easier, but it also felt like confirmation that Carrie was not coming back.
"When I got the call, it was amazing, I was so pleased. I thought, how much easier is life going to be," she tells Nick.
"And then I thought, do I want it? Do I want this, because I want Carrie. It’s confirmation she’s not coming back. It was like a rock hit me."
Nick and the team came to transform their home with the help of a "Cornish army".
Steve smiling with his grandsons Ruben, Jaden and Uche
The big build was made possible with the help of many kind volunteers from the area who donated their time, expertise and building materials.
The house was completely gutted and an extension was built so the boys could have their own bedrooms, while their grandparents got a private bathroom.
The family couldn't even eat meals together before, but they were given a new spacious kitchen and dining area with banquette seating.
One of the boys is given a double bed in his Cornish-themed room, which also features a desk and a surfboard on the wall.
While the garden has been transformed int a massive social space with a patio, wooden dining furniture and a BBQ.
A Cornish army of volunteers came to help
The DIY SOS team also created special places in the house in tribute to Carrie.
A memorial garden was made so the boys could find a quiet space to go and remember happy memories of their mum.
The house is full of little reminders, including a willow tree and photographs and artworks.
There are also 103 ornamental butterflies to represent each of Lynne and Steve's foster children, as well as an extra special one for Carrie.
Lynn felt like she was in a fairy tale when Nick led her to the transformed house and was overwhelmed by the sea of volunteers who had helped.
The family now have their own personal spaces in the house
Speaking to the volunteers after the reveal, Lynn says: "When we realised we had lost Carrie, we were devastated. Nothing can prepare you for losing a child.
'But our first instinct was to protect the boys. There was no hesitation the boys would come and live with us, then reality struck.
'It has been extremely hard at times, no privacy or space, no time to grieve. But the boys come first. We can now move forward and build our lives."
Nick said there was no one more deserving of the build.
He told Cornwall Live: "I think the fact that there’s more space will be very emotional for them because it takes a great weight off their shoulders, but this doesn't solve all the problems for the family because they are dealing with loss and a lifetime for the kids of growing up without their mum."
* DIY SOS: The Big Build airs tonight on BBC One at 8pm