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Pic of the week: Intimate portrait of a mother's love

By Maureen Coleman

It's the poignant picture that sums up the special bond between Belfast Telegraph Mum of the Year Joyce Craig and her 23-year-old son, Christopher.

Standing next to his wheelchair, with a hand resting protectively on its back, Joyce looks lovingly at her son, who has cerebral palsy and requires 24-hour care.

The intimate snap of the pair was taken by Belfast Telegraph photographer Kevin Scott at Crawfordsburn beach, near their home.

Joyce devotes round-the-clock attention to her young son and credits him for giving her courage and strength.

For, just last month, Joyce's older son, Michael, passed away from a brain tumour. To lose one child is heartbreaking, but what makes Joyce's story so unbearably sad is the fact her only daughter, Nicola, who was severely disabled, died in 2011 at the age of 26.

Nicola was not supposed to survive beyond her first birthday, but, even so, her death still came as a devastating blow for the family.

Then, Michael, her only healthy child and who helped out with the care of his brother and sister, was diagnosed with a brain tumour, just as he was planning to start a new life in Australia.

Michael, who had just graduated from Edinburgh University with an Honours degree in physics, died on February 2 at the age of 25.

In spite of the double tragedy that rocked Joyce to the core, she knew she couldn't give up and had to struggle on for Christopher's sake.

The two have a very close relationship, as our inset photograph shows, and Joyce describes him as "a happy wee thing, who loves computer games".

Her stoicism in the face of so much personal grief saw her nominated in the Belfast Telegraph Mum of the Year category, which she deservedly went on to win.

The award was a boost for Joyce, who believed it to be a Mother's Day gift from her son Michael.

"He didn't send me a card and flowers this year," she said. "He sent me Mum of the Year. Winning the award has given me a big lift. It has really lifted my spirits."

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