Diddy's first reaction upon learning of Kim Porter's death was "screaming and crying." "I was crying out to God—and to her,” the 49-year-old tells Essence of his former partner and mother of three of his children, who People reports died of lobar pneumonia in November. But "almost immediately Kim's voice kicked in, and I could hear her saying, 'Make sure you take care of my babies.'" The model and actress had spoken those words to Diddy just days before her death as she suffered flu-like symptoms and the rapper called to check in on her. Diddy says the pair never talked without mentioning son Christian, 21, or twin daughters Jessie James and D’Lila, 12. Diddy also helped raise Porter's 27-year-old son, Quincy, and Porter loved Diddy's son Justin, 25, and daughter Chance, 13, as her own. "On some level, I knew she was training me for this," he says.
And so, as tragedy struck, "I jumped into mommy mode," Diddy says, explaining he "sent people in every direction" in an effort to prevent all six kids from hearing about Porter's death on the news or social media. In the case of Christian, who was on a plane, "I had his phone disconnected so he wouldn't read it in the air." Diddy says he's been putting family first ever since. "Before this, I was a part-time father," he tells Essence, referencing "countless times when I chose work over everything else." But now, "every day I can hear her telling me to go and spend some time with the kids and make sure everybody's all right, like she would do," he says of Porter. "Now my kids come before anything else in my life," and "we're doing this well, because of the way she loved us." (Diddy previously described the pair as "more than soulmates.")