Saturday, February 18, 2012

Whitney Houston Laid To Rest

Whitney Houston went to church one final time Saturday.

She was welcomed by family members, close friends and a internet audience of enormous amounts who viewed as the pop superstar was remembered as a child of God with the voice of an angel.

A voice that never forgot its origins.

"Jesus Loves Me" was the last song Houston sang in open public before her passing away February 11 in Beverly Hills, California, at the age of 48.

Saturday's home going service was held at New Hope Baptist Church, where Houston, nicknamed "Nippy," was soloing in the junior choir by age 11.

Even with her resulting fame, which produced six Grammy Awards, attractive living and parties on the West Coast, and seven consecutive No. 1 singles, Houston never forgot her Newark, New Jersey, hometown.

Actor Kevin Costner, who starred with Houston in her first movie, "The Bodyguard," recounted how both of them grew up in the Baptist faith and had family members who sang in the choir.

Throughout the three-and-a-half-hour service, Houston's casket, covered with a large spray of flowers, rested in front of the altar.

Whilst many of her fans lamented the fact that Houston's service was invitation-only, Pastor Marvin Winans, who provided the eulogy, thanked Cissy Houston, Whitney's mother, for having the service at New Hope.

The six-page funeral program included color family photos and a letter from Cissy Houston.

The letter included the message, "God said 'It's time, Nippy. Your work is done.'" It was signed, "Thanks for being such a wonderful daughter. Love, Mommie."

Houston also left behind a daughter, Bobbi Kristina Brown, 18.

Through the crying and occasional laughter, entertainers and speakers spoke of Houston's devotion.

Gospel vocalist and longtime friend BeBe Winans was visibly emotional as he remembered a memory of Houston's sense of humor.

Gospel vocalist and friend Kim Burrell sang a reworked edition of Sam Cooke's "A Change is Gonna Come," adding glimpses of Houston's lifetime to the lyrics. After completing, she walked down to the pew where Cissy Houston sat and embraced her.

One of the most emotional moments in the service came when Keys sang "Send Me an Angel," her voice soaring into the rafters of the sanctuary.

Oprah Winfrey, Mary J. Blige, Mariah Carey, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Spike Lee, and Houston's former husband, Bobby Brown, were among those in presence. Brown walked by Houston's casket with his head down before the service began. Law enforcement said Brown and his entourage later left the church during the service.

At the time of her passing away, Houston was in the Los Angeles area for the 54th annual Grammy Awards and was to be present at a party hosted by her long time mentor and record producer, Clive Davis. She was found dead in her hotel suite. A cause of death has not been established.

Mourners heard only a few indirect references to her private battles. A close family friend told CNN on Tuesday that Houston had not used "hard drugs" for a number of years. Detectives are examining doctor prescribed drugs found in her hotel room.

Through her turmoil, speakers said, Houston stayed true to her faith.

"In her final days, she held on to what you taught her to believe in," said Patricia Houston, Whitney's sister-in-law and previous manager. "I promise you she did."

Speakers, including Bishop T.D. Jakes and director-producer Tyler Perry, spoke of the promises of tomorrow.

At the conclusion of the service, Houston's well-known recording of "I Will Always Love You" was played as her coffin was taken out from the sanctuary. Her mother leaned on her escorts as they assisted her down the aisle.

Houston will be laid to rest Sunday at the Fairview Cemetery in Westfield, just south of Newark.

She has come home.

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