(Photo: REUTERS/Lucas Jackson)
When Whitney Houston's family and friends remembered the legendary singer at her funeral this past weekend, they spoke more about her strong Christian faith despite hard times than her talent in music.
"I don't care what was going on with her, I don't care what it was, she stayed grounded in the Word," said Patricia Houston, the singer's sister-in-law and manager, who was among several others who remembered the 48-year-old musician for her faith in Christ at the funeral in Newark, N.J., Saturday.
"A friend (identified only as Londale) sent a note reminding us that our dear sister, aunt, mother, friend in Christ has been set free," Patricia Houston said, according to the transcripts of the CNN's Piers Morgan Tonight show on Sunday featuring Houston's funeral. "Free from pain, free from sorrow, free from crying, free from sin, free from death. We will see her again but until then she rests peacefully in the Lord's presence." She went on to say that "the legacy that she left was music but what she left for you was her love for God and she had it and she was absolute, she was absolute about that."
Houston was laid to rest next to her father at Fairview Cemetery in Westfield on Sunday. Whereas Saturday's memorial service was a star-studded event that was broadcast to the public, the burial was a private ceremony.
Houston, whose career peaked in the 1980s and the 1990s, suffered from drug abuse and her career declined dramatically following years of success and No. 1 hits. She divorced her husband Bobby Brown, with whom she would use drugs, in April 2007. Houston died in a bathtub at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, Calif., on Feb. 11. The cause of her death is not known yet as toxicology results are awaited.
Shortly before her death, Houston talked about her desire to see Jesus and said she felt her end was near. A day before her death, she told a friend, "I'm gonna go see Jesus ... I want to see Jesus," according to TMZ.com. And hours before her death, she quoted Matthew 3:13-17 from the Bible describing the baptism of Jesus. "You know, he's so cool. ... I really want to see that Jesus," Houston was quoted as saying by an unidentified source.
At the funeral, actor and director Tyler Perry recalled how Houston would draw strength from God to deal with tough times. "I'm the type of person that when I would see this (a heavy heart) with anyone I would want to just want to say something encouraging. But before I could get words out to encourage her, she would say 'but the Lord,'" he said. "And the conversation went on … we would talk a little bit more, and she would go back into this sadness and just when I'm about to step in she would say, 'But my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and His amazing grace.'"
Houston was born in a neighborhood of Newark, and was the third and youngest child of entertainment executive John Russell Houston, Jr., and gospel singer Cissy Houston. She was raised a Baptist, but also attended a Pentecostal church during a period of her growing up.
Perry attributed her success to "a grace that carried her from heaven down through miss Cissy Houston."
"And the other thing I know for sure and this is more important than anything she's ever done in her life, Whitney Houston loved the Lord." Referring to Apostle Paul in Romans in the Bible, Perry added, "If you look at what Paul was saying, he was describing her life so perfectly, he said neither height, which meant no matter how far she went in the stratosphere, nothing separated her from the Lord. Neither height, nor depth, no matter how much struggle, no matter what she had to go through, no matter what she had to walk through, it still wasn't enough to separate her from the love of God, nor principalities, nor power."
The Rev. Joe Carter, the pastor of Houston's home church New Hope Baptist Church, spoke about the faith of her family. "The loving people you see, this family, they love the Lord. And it is their faith that is holding them together."
The Rev. T.D. Jakes, pastor of the Potter's House megachurch in Dallas, Texas, said it was not just Houston's beauty, her voice, her song, her poise, her class that brought people at her funeral. It's "because you knew who she was, not just what she did."
Musician Clive Davis said, "The Lord and her religion obviously was her life guiding force." Pastor Kim Burrell from Houston, Texas, described Houston as "heaven sent ... I know she's with Jesus."
The Rev. Marvin Winans, founder of The Perfecting Church in Detroit, Michigan, ended the funeral, praying thus: "Let us leave here, recognizing that Whitney left too soon. Let us leave here impacted by her life, saying that I want to finish what God has started. Let us make you first."