After all the testimonials from relatives and friends, the songs from legends and pop stars, the preaching and even laughter, the raw emotion of Whitney Houston's funeral came down to just one moment: The sound of her own voice.
As the strains of her biggest record, "I Will Always Love You," filled the New Hope Baptist Church at the end of the nearly four-hour service and her silver and gold casket was lifted in the air, the weight of the moment was too much for mother Cissy Houston to bear. As she was held up by two women, she wailed, "My baby! My baby!" as she was led out of the church behind her daughter's body.
A few steps behind her was the pop icon's daughter, Bobbi Kristina, also crying uncontrollably as she was comforted by Houston's close friend, Ray J.
It was the most searing scene on a day with mixed moods as family, friends and a list celebrities -- sometimes one in the same -- came to the humble New Hope Baptist church to remember one of music's legends, but also a New Jersey hometown girl.
Her death marked the end of a life of stunning achievements. Blessed with a voice of great power and beauty, Houston became one of pop music's most successful artists. Her struggles with drugs and very public fall from grace during tumultuous times, including a union with ex-husband Bobby Brown, were among the many valleys.
Both sides of Houston were recalled at the service at New Hope, which was filled with about 300 mourners, including Oprah Winfrey, Tyler Perry, Alicia Keys, Mariah Carey, Mary J. Blige, Forest Whitaker, Jennifer Hudson, Diane Sawyer and her cousin, Dionne Warwick.
"She was someone with a charmed and a beautiful life, sometimes misunderstood, even by herself," said her sister-in-law and manager, Patricia Houston. "But a life nevertheless that gave joy, happiness, enthusiasm, peace and beautiful music to millions of people around the world."
Kevin Costner, her co-star in "The Bodyguard," said for all of Houston's beauty and success, she was still yearning for approval from the public -- and still somewhat insecure, a superstar who "still wondered, 'Am I good enough? Am I pretty enough? Will they like me?' "
Many who spoke talked about Houston's unshakable faith in Jesus Christ, which got her through some of her most difficult times.
Brown briefly appeared at her funeral, walking to the casket, touching it and walking out. He later said in a statement that he and his children were asked repeatedly to move and he left rather than risk creating a scene. Close friend Aretha Franklin had been expected to sing at the service, but said Saturday she was too ill to attend.
Houston is to be buried today in nearby Westfield.