At turns celebratory and sorrowful, Whitney Houston's funeral was filled with life-affirming music and touching stories of the beloved singer who died unexpectedly at age 48 last week.
Held at the New Hope Baptist Church in New Jersey that she grew up in, Whitney's funeral featured remembrances from Kevin Costner, Dionne Warwick and Tyler Perry, as well as performances from Alicia Keys, R. Kelly and Stevie Wonder. Her godmother Aretha Franklin had been scheduled to perform but leg problems prevented her from singing.
Ex-husband Bobby Brown reportedly showed up but left when his entourage was not accommodated. Pastor Marvin L. Winans, who delivered the ceremony's impassioned eulogy, married Houston and Brown in 1992.
Speaking of his co-star in The Bodyguard (which produced her record-breaking single "I Will Always Love You"), Kevin Costner recalled that the studio was reticent to cast Houston in the role because she was an inexperienced actress. But he insisted, even delaying production for a year in order to accommodate her schedule.
Speaking of her nervousness on set, Costner offered his take on what might have gone wrong in her mind and life.
"The Whitney I knew was still wondering if I'm good enough. 'Am I pretty enough? Will they like me?' It was what made her great, and what caused her to stumble at the end."
Tyler Perry emphasized the Baptist faith that characterized Whitney all her life. "If there was a grace that carried her all the way through, it was the same grace that carried her home."
Although Alicia Keys and R. Kelly choked up during their relatively somber performances, numerous gospel singers provided outright joyful music that celebrated the glory of her life. Gospel singer Kim Burrell sang a stunning version of Sam Cooke's "A Change Is Gonna Come" with the lyrics changed to pay tribute to her departed friend.
At the end of the nearly four-hour ceremony, Whitney Houston's resplendent casket was carried out as her iconic version of "I Will Always Love You" echoed throughout the church.
UPDATE: Bobby Brown issued a statement not long after Whitney Houston's funeral ended to explain why he left before it began. "We were seated by security and then subsequently asked to move on three separate occasions," Brown says. "I fail to understand why security treated my family this way and continue to ask us and no one else to move. Security then prevented me from attempting to see my daughter Bobbi Kristina. In light of the events, I gave a kiss to the casket of my ex-wife and departed as I refused to create a scene."