"We are here today, hearts broken but yet with God's strength we celebrate the life of Whitney Houston," Reverend Joe A. Carter said to the crowd at Whitney Houston's star-studded private memorial this weekend.
Tributes from some of music and film's greatest dignitaries came from the stage as television cameras looked on, documenting and broadcasting the funeral in real-time. Alicia Keys, Jennifer Hudson, Reverend Al Sharpton and Kevin Costner were all in attendance.
"Am I good enough? Am I pretty enough? Will they like me?" Bodyguard co-star Costner remembered Whitney wondering. "It was the burden that made her great and the part that caused her to stumble in the end."
Both longtime fans and the curious were disappointed by some notable absences. Close family friend Aretha Franklin was initially scheduled to perform at the memorial, but became ill and was unable to attend at all. She instead sent her best wishes to Houston's family.
"May God bless and keep them all," her note read.
A more controversial absence involved Houston's former husband, New Edition singer Bobby Brown. Though they divorced several years before her death, after a reportedly tumultuous 15 year marriage, Brown was crestfallen after hearing news of her death. He arrived at her funeral, with an entourage of 9 in tow, though he left before the service began. Though no official reason has been given thus far, spectators have gone on record.
A source told Billboard.com that Brown expected that he and his entourage would be seated in the pews reserved for Houston's family.
"They were asked to leave," the source said, referring to Brown's posse. Brown himself was reportedly permitted to stay but "left with the other people."
Sources had earlier claimed that Houston's family were reticent to invite Brown to the memorial service in the first place, only extending the offer at the last minute. Allegations of verbal and physical abuse were common during the couple's marriage.
The Reverend Al Sharpton took to Twitter to shed a little light on the situation.
"I am at Whitney's funeral. I spoke with Bobby Brown trying to calm him down and not distract from the services. Today is about Whitney!" Sharpton said. "I am going back in the services, I did my best out here. Can't tweet from inside the sanctuary, I hope the press will not distort the day," he later added.