Pretty 22-year-old Ella Preece is on a roll – she’s just been promoted to business development lead with CHUMS, the children’s bereavement service.
And CHUMS boss Dawn Hewitt has also given her blessing to Ella’s nine-month round-the-world trip-of-a-lifetime.
Yet only seven years ago, this confident young woman thought her life was falling apart.
Her beloved father – Luton Town Football Club legend David Preece – died suddenly of the rare blood disorder TTP, shortly after he appeared to have beaten throat cancer.
And Ella was told the heartbreaking news the morning after celebrating her 16th birthday.
She, her mum Louise and sisters Tabitha and Ruby, then 18 and seven respectively, clung together in shock and disbelief.
It was her mum who turned to CHUMS in an attempt to support her daughters who were finding it increasingly difficult to cope.
Ella said: “I don’t think anything prepares you for a loved one dying. And whether you know it’s going to happen or not, it’s still just as heartbreaking.
“My friends didn’t really understand the devastating impact – they were young, nothing bad had ever happened in their lives and they were all beginnning a new chapter, going to college.
“I’d have felt exactly the same if it had been the other way round.”
She and her sisters attended a CHUMS workshop and it was a real eye-opener.
“Everyone just ‘got’ it,” Ella said. “There was no explaining to be done and I realised all the emotions I was feeling were just the normal grieving process.”
She added: “Time hasn’t changed how I feel about my Dad. I’m always wondering ‘What would he think or say about that?’ Especially when it comes to men! I know he would have had something to say – he never thought anyone was good enough for his girls.
“But Mum has done a great job of being both parents to us and me and mum catch the spiders in our house now.” She’s also touched by the way the Hatters players and fans have stood by the family.
“We went to the ground for the opening of Dad’s stand which is called the family stand. It was lovely that they knew how important family was to him. We feel like VIPs when we’re there watching a game. My little sister particularly enjoys it when everyone says hello.”
Ella describes her current job as ‘surreal.’
She said: “To be given this promotion and opportunity . . . knowing how precious life is, I want to grab it with both hands.”