Video report from ITV News Correspondent Martha Fairlie
"There's not a day that goes by where my son didn't say, 'mummy, I love you'", Richard Okorogheye's mother tells ITV News.
"He cared so much. He was so protective."
Evidence Joel has been trying to make sense of the death of her son.
Richard Okorogheye, a 19-year-old university student, went missing after leaving his west London home on March 22.
On Wednesday, police confirmed that a body they had found in a pond in Epping Forest was Mr Okorogheye's.
Mr Okorogheye's mother tearfully says he was 'the reason [she] lived'
He was last seen on CCTV walking towards the Essex woodland but it's not known why he went there.
According to his mother, nothing suggested he was planning to leave their home on the day he disappeared. "There was no sign of agitation, he was just normal. He said 'Are you going to work now? Drive safely'," Ms Joel says.
"He said, 'mum, have I ever told you how much I love you and appreciate you?" However, she acknowledges her son's mental health may have declined during the pandemic.
Richard had been shielding for the past year as a result of his sickle cell disease, while his university course had moved online.
His mother says: "Although he didn't say, I'm sure it was horrible for him. He couldn't go out and he was afraid to touch Covid anywhere. I'm sure definitely that had an impact."
Ms Joel recalls the last words her son said to her
Ms Joel says her son's death has left her "empty" and "lonely", adding: "Part of me has disappeared."
She continued that her son was "the reason why I live".
Despite her devastation, she hopes to build a foundation in her son's name.
Ms Joel wants the body to support sufferers of sickle cell disease and young people struggling with their mental health.
A forensic post mortem examination into the death has taken place. The cause has not yet been announced as investigations are still ongoing.
Police say there was no evidence of physical trauma or assault.