A memorial service for Houston, who died last weekend of undisclosed causes, will be held Saturday at the New Jersey church she sang at as a child. Aretha Franklin has been asked to sing at her goddaughter’s funeral, which begins at noon, CNN reports. The eulogy will be given by the Rev. Marvin Winans. A public wake will not be held, despite earlier reports to the contrary.
For some, it may seem strange that Houston’s private funeral will be shared with the public. But as Celebritology’s Jen Chaney wrote, the death of any famous person, Houston included, can help the public grieve personal losses and can even be a cathartic experience: “Sometimes it may take the death of a Whitney Houston to remind us that we still have work to do: both to confront our own, private pain and to be more sensitive toward those who carry their sorrow more quietly, far away from spotlights.”
On Saturday, flags at New Jersey’s government buildings will be flown at half-staff in honor of Houston, who was born in Newark. Gov. Chris Christie has defended this decision in the face of fierce criticism.
To a Twitter user who accused him of flying flags half-staff for celebrities, but not for fallen soldiers, Christie responded, “Every NJ soldier who has been killed in action during my Adm had the flags lowered in their memory. Learn your facts before accusing.”
He added, “Not saying sacrifices were equivalent. Her cultural contributions 2 this state merit the honor, in my opinion. Sorry u disagree.” Christie further explained, “Flag being lowered for her cultural contributions as an artist & New [Jersey.] Her struggles w/substance abuse r a diff topic”
Christie announced the plan Monday at a press conference, saying, “Obviously, Whitney Houston was an important part of the cultural fabric of this state. ... I think she belongs in the same category from a musical perspective in New Jersey history with folks like Frank Sinatra, Count Basie and Bruce Springsteen. She was a cultural icon in this state.”
Watch the governor explain his decision below.