Feb 18, 2012

'Rest my baby girl in peace': Mother's tearful tribute to Whitney as family and stars gather at funeral

Whitney Houston's mother paid an emotional tribute to her beloved daughter today as family, friends and some of the biggest names in the music world gathered at New Hope Baptist Church in Newark, New Jersey, for the singer's funeral. 
Among the mourners at today's highly-charged service, were singers Chaka Khan, Brandy, Roberta Flack, Jordin Sparks and Jennifer Hudson. Singer Ray J, who spent time with Houston during her last days, broke down crying before the service had even begun. 
Mother Cissy and daughter Bobbi Kristina were in the front row, both in black, both with heads bowed in grief.
But the tragic star's distraught ex-husband Bobby Brown was seen storming out of the church shortly before the service began. He was driven away from the service but it is believed he later returned in time for the going-home service.


TMZ reported that Brown got into an argument with Whitney's family over whether or not he could bring nine people into the church with him. He was invited and told he could bring two people but instead showed up with an entourage of nine.
Bobby reportedly became upset when he was told his party could not be seated. He was also refused to sit beside his daughter Bobbi Kristina in the front row.


 
After a brief welcome by City Mayor Cory Booke, pastor Joe Carter took to the altar to read some scripture and start the celebration of Whitney's life. He said: 'Whitney you are the only woman who could bring all of us together, Whitney today is your day.'
A program featuring a picture of Houston looking skyward read: 'Celebrating the life of Whitney Elizabeth Houston, a child of God'. Pictures of Houston as a baby, with her mother, gospel singer Cissy Houston and daughter, Bobbi Kristina filled the program. 
'I never told you that when you were born, the Holy Spirit told me that you would not be with me long,' Cissy Houston wrote her daughter in a letter published in the program. 'And I thank God for the beautiful flower he allowed me to raise and cherish for 48 years.'
'Rest, my baby girl in peace,' the letter ends, signed 'mommie'.
Gospel singer Donnie McClurken was the first soloist to sing. He performed Stand which was a request from the Houston family. As he came up to sing he briefly stopped to greet Whitney’s mother Cissy and her daughter Bobbi Kristina.
Stevie Wonder said in his fantasy world he had a crush on Whitney before serenading the audience with Ribbons In The Sky


The Bodyguard co-star Kevin Costner got up to share memories of his time with his beloved friend.
He started by saying: 'I would like to thank Cissy and Dionne for the honour of being here. Everyone treating my wife and I so gracefully.'
'The song I Will Always Love You almost wasn’t. She was meant to sing What Becomes of the Broken Hearted. So what becomes our broken hearts.
'For a moment we should dry our tears, suspend our sorrow and anger. Never forgot that Cissy and Bobbi Kristina are sitting among us.
'Your mother and I had a lot in common,' he said to Bobbi Kristina. 'He’s a boy, she’s a girl. I’m white, she’s black. You’d think we had nothing in common but we did.
'We both grew up in a Baptist church. My grandmother led the choir and played the piano.
Kevin told stories of his childhood in the church that Whitney enjoyed him telling her when they worked together including him 'drinking grape juice' in the back of the church.
He laughed: 'I can see her as a skinny girl running around this place, using her smile to get out of trouble and Cissy having enough of it. Whitney said she was waiting no whisper, her mother Cissy and cousin Dionne.
'As I’m sure of Whitney’s place in musical history. I’m also sure of how she felt about her mother. Was she good enough. Could I have done better. Did they really like me or were they just being polite because they’re scared of you Cissy?’


He spoke about how there was initial anxiety about Whitney, a black woman, to play alongside Kevin Costner.
He said that there was a sigh of relief when it turned out that Whitney was going to be able to do The Bodyguard because she was going to be one tour. But Kevin said he would wait a year for so she would be available.
'Whitney was nervous and scared that she wasn’t good enough for the role. But I told her I would be with her every step of the way.
'I wanted to tell her that the fame was rigged. That I didn’t care how the test went, that she could fall down and start speaking in tongues. That somehow it was a kind of acting method.
'The Whitney I knew despite her worldwide fame always worried. Am I good enough. Am I pretty enough. Will they like me. The part that made her great and the part that made her great was also the part that made her stumble.
'A lot of men could have played my role. But you Whitney were the only person who could have played Rachel Marron. 
'People didn’t just like you Whitney. They loved you. I was your pretend bodyguard once. And now you’re gone too soon. 
'What you did was the rarest of achievements. You set the bar so high. That your colleagues don’t even sing that little country song. What’s the point.
I think Whitney would tell you, little girls wanting to become singers. Guard your bodies and guard the precious miracle you have.'
Fighting back tears he said: 'Off you go Whitney, off you go. Escorted by an army of angels to your heavenly father. When you sing before him. Don’t you worry. You will be good enough.'
Singer Alicia Keys was next to perform and, introducing her Dionne Warwick said she was 'a young lady that Whitney adored'.
Alicia was tearful as she walked to the piano and spoke about her friendship with the singer.
'We called each other Meema. She was such a beautiful human being. Call you for no reason at all but just to say hi. And that’s rare I think sometimes.
'I feel like in so many ways she reached back to me and to Michael and Brandy and Jordin and all these young artists and made us feel strong and capable and loved. I think she is an angel to us. She has been an angel to us.'
Alicia then sang a medley of songs on the piano starting with Send Me An Angel, changing the lyrics to Whitney is an Angel.
She tightly embraced Cissy and Bobbi Kristina as she stepped off the altar.

 
Stevie Wonder took to the piano next to serenade the congregation. 
'Dionne, Cissy and to all the family, I want you to know - as have millions of people said - not just in this time but throughout her career, we loved her so much and that won’t stop,' he said. 
'In my fantasy world I had a crush on Whitney,’ he laughed. 'I understand that Ribbons in the Sky is one of the ones that she liked a lot,’ Stevie said before explaining that he changed the lyrics to make it more appropriate for church and the occasion.
'What God gives is never a coincidence and more than a happenstance,’ he sang. ‘Who can lose with God on our side. And no more Whitney do you have to cry. You will always be our ribbon in the sky. And angel from God’s choir of love. Whitney an angel from the choir. From God’s choir of love.’
He received a standing ovation when he finished his heart-wrenching tribute to Whitney.
Pat Houston, Whitney’s manager and sister-in-law was next to speak.
'There is so much I could say about her. A life misunderstood. Sometimes misunderstood even by herself,’ she said.
'When she did not want to do things she did them anyway. It is this special gift of giving. Some were jealous and envious but Whitney gave anyway. She knew in the final analysis it will be between her and God.
'My hope is that you will remember her. To my mother-in-law – the choice was always hers. There were people that God couldn’t heal,’ Pat said.
'Clive you were the rock that held her together professionally. She referred to you as industry father. You gave her hope. Thank you for your excellence, your loving kindness, peace, dedication and most importantly your love for Whitney all these years.
'LA Reid there was much love for you. Clive was her industry father. You were her industry uncle.
'Her work ethics were impeccable. She put the spark in Sparkle and Krissy that was for you,’ she said of Whitney’s film role in Sparkle.

 
Pat then thanked a list of people including agents, managers, friends, Oprah, Tyler Perry, band members.
Cece Winans, Whitney’s close friend, gave a stirring performance of Don’t Cry For Me.
The Grammy-award-winning singer sang a duet with Whitney on the track Count on Me for the Waiting to Exhale soundtrack.
She then sang Yes Jesus Loves Me which was the final song that Whitney sang two days before her death.
Bobbi Kristina was seen putting her hand around the waist of her grandmother Cissy and comforting her as she bent over in tears.