SWV's Coko Gamble Takes In Cousin's 12-Year-Old Twins After Losing Her to Lupus: 'No Brainer'
The R&B singer tells PEOPLE exclusively about adapting to life with two new kids under her roof all while grieving the loss of her cousin
When her now adult-aged children moved out of her Virginia home, SWV's Cheryl "Coko" Gamble thought her nest was finally empty.
"Yes," the 52-year-old mom to sons Jayye Michael and Lil' Tracy, tells PEOPLE exclusively when asked if she thought her days of taking care of young children in her home were over. "My youngest is 20 and my oldest is 27."
But after promising her cousin Sheila Laney that she'd take care of her twins, son DJ and daughter Nevea, 12, if anything happened to her, all of that changed.
"She was sick," Coko says of her cousin who also contracted COVID-19 shortly before her death. "She had lupus, and we feel like she knew that she was sick already and that she wouldn't be here much longer because she was getting things in order. We were like, 'Of course, sure, no problem,' and she was getting paperwork in order and everything. Shortly thereafter, she got really sick and she passed away, and so here we are today."
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With the help of Coko's mom, Lady Tibba Gamble, 76, the tight-knit family moved the siblings in January from New York to Virginia without thinking twice.
"It's family," Coko says. "I would want somebody to do that for me. [I'm] pretty sure my mom would've wanted somebody to do that for her, so when she asked it was like a no-brainer, absolutely. I have the room. We were just that tight. She knew we had her back and we knew that she had ours, if anything ever happened."
Since the move, the twins have adjusted to their new lives as well as can be expected including navigating how to properly handle Nevea's special needs.
"Nevea is autistic and DJ, he's just brilliant," Coko explains. "It's been very loud. I'm used to it being quiet because my kids are grown. It's been very active, and we stay busy. Because my mother, myself and Jayye, he's here, my youngest son. My mom gets up in the morning with them. I do Nevea's hair, Jayye picks out the clothes. It's like teamwork."
"The children aren't that much of a problem," Lady Tibba adds. "As long as you feed them and they're able to play their games, they pretty much entertain themselves."
Coko and her mom have also learned some new tricks from taking care of the twins as they tag team life with two almost teenagers.
"I'm literally braiding her hair up for school last night," Coko says. "I'm like, 'Ooh, my back hurts. These nails are too long,' but I got to do what I got to do because I'm leaving town. My mother's like, 'You got to make sure you do her hair before you leave,' so it's just things like that."
Although there are tough days, the mom and daughter duo wouldn't have it any other way.
"It's challenging," Coko shares. "But I think we needed this because I was ready to just prepare to take my mother and let's go off into the sunset. But God had other plans for us."
SWV & XSCAPE: The Queens of R&B airs at 9:30 p.m. ET/PT on Bravo.
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