Heartwrenching last photo of terminally ill couple holding hands

Terminally ill couple Mike and Julie Bennet (Facebook)
Mike and Julie Bennet (Facebook)

A terminally ill couple whose heartbreaking photo gained worldwide attention have now been reunited in death, five days apart.

Mike Bennet had been diagnosed with a brain tumour in 2013, which didn't respond to any treatment by doctors. His wife, Julie, was diagnosed with cancer in 2016.

Their children shared a poignant photo of their last moments, holding hands as they said goodbye to each other, just days before Mr Bennet died.

Ms Bennet died five days after her husband.

"Everyone loved them. They were very supportive and equally challenging - always challenging their children to ask more, always encouraging them," Heather Heaten Gallagher, a family spokesperson and friend, told CBS News.

A crowdfunding page supporting the family's children has already raised more than £193,000 (NZ$336,000) - nearly four times the page's original target.

Before she died, the trio told their mother about the support they had received so far.

"We really appreciate it and would like everyone to know that our mum takes a great amount of comfort from knowing that we are being supported so well by friends, family and kind-hearted strangers," they wrote.

Ms Gallagher says all of the money will go towards the children's future - 21-year-old Luke, 18-year-old Hannah and 13-year-old Oliver.

"They shouldn't need to grow up so fast right now," she said.