Celine Dion Bids Emotional Final Farewell to Late Husband Rene Angelil at Public Funeral
By Raphael Chestang
Celine Dion and her children gave a final goodbye to husband and father Rene Angelil at his national funeral held in Montreal on Friday.
The heartbroken GRAMMY winner held hands with her 5-year-old twins Nelson and Eddy as she entered the Notre-Dame Basilica, while 14-year-old son Rene-Charles escorted his maternal grandmother, Therese, into the service.
While Celine did not perform at the ceremony, a recording of her voice singing in French echoed through the church. Inside, the 47-year-old entertainer placed purple calla lilies on top of Rene's casket.
In one of the most poignant moments of the service, Rene-Charles took the pulpit to honor his late father.
"Dad, you are a tough act to follow, but with your help, everything is going to be fine," Rene-Charles said. "Dad, I promise you we are all going to live up to your standards."
Rene died on Jan. 14 after a long battle with throat cancer, just two days before his 74th birthday. As one of his final acts of love to his wife, Rene planned his own funeral to spare Celine the grief.
Throngs of mourners watched as the service was broadcast outside the Basilica -- the same church where the couple exchanged vows in 1994 -- and flags across Quebec waved at half-mast.
According to the program, three of Celine's songs, chosen by Rene, played during the ceremony: "Trois Heures 20" ("20 Past Three"), "L'Amour Existe Encore" ("Love Still Exists") and "All the Way."
Celine once performed "Love Still Exists" at a benefit concert in Montreal for the victims of the Sept. 11 attacks.
The program, written mostly in French, also included a letter from Celine's Las Vegas show director, Stephane Laporte.
"Rene doesn't demand respect. He does better than that, he offers it," he wrote. "Because the most respected man of show business is the one who respects others the most. His genius is to think of everything, to never forget anyone."
Thirteen cameras covered all angles of the Catholic ceremony overseen by the Archbishop of Montreal, Christian Lepine. When it came time for communion, Celine and Rene-Charles were the first to receive, and later held tight to each other when they went up to sign the register.
At the end of the ceremony, Celine and her boys followed the casket out of the Basilica and Celine sent her beloved one last kiss.
Among those in attendance were Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's wife, Sophie Gregoire-Trudeau and federal Heritage Minister Melanie Joly.
The funeral on Friday followed the wake on Thursday, where Celine bravely shook hands with dear friends and family who had come to pay their respects. Celine spoke to ET Canada during the visitation, saying that she's "day by day" but that Rene would want her to carry on.