Bobbi Kristina burial: 'It's unimaginable,' says Newark funeral director

By Barry Carter | The Star-Ledger
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on August 04, 2015

Cissy Houston, right, the grandmother of Bobbi Kristina Brown, looks on as the casket with Brown's body is placed into a hearse at the Whigham Funeral Home. Family and friends then traveled to the Fairview Cemetery in Westfield for burial. Brown is the 22-year-old daughter of Whitney Houston and Bobby Brown. Newark, NJ 8/3/15

 

Carolyn Whigham knows what it's like to bury a mother and then her child.

She's done it at least 10 times, maybe more, as chief executive officer and owner of Whigham Funeral Home in Newark.  

"Emotionally, it's very difficult," she says.

Whigham found herself in that all-too-familiar place yesterday when she brought the body of Bobbi Kristina Brown to Fairview Cemetery in Westfield, where the 22-year-old was buried with her mother, Whitney Houston. Three years ago, Whigham was in charge as Houston was laid to rest in the cemetery next to her dad, John Russell Houston.

"My heart goes out to Cissy," Whigham says, referring to Cissy Houston, who was mother to Whitney and grandmother to Bobbi Kristina, who died July 26. "It's never a mother's or father's plan to lay their child to rest. And then to lose a child, and turn around and lose a grandchild ...

She paused, then continued.

"It's unbelievable. It's unimaginable. But I believe the strength that she has in God, she will get through the journey."

Whigham says she and her staff leaned on their faith yesterday morning, too, taking a moment to pray because of the close relationship they have with the Houston family.

They bowed their heads three years ago when Whigham handled the funeral services for Houston, who died Feb. 11, 2012, after she was found unconscious in a bathtub on the eve of the Grammy awards at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in California.

On Jan. 31, Bobbi Kristina was found face-down and unresponsive in a bathtub by boyfriend Nick Gordon in the home they shared in Roswell, Ga. She died at Peachtree Christian Hospice in Duluth, Ga., where she was moved in late June. Funeral services were held Saturday during a private, invitation-only memorial at St. James United Methodist Church in Alpharetta, Ga.

Bobbi Kristina's body was flown to Newark airport yesterday morning, where Whigham picked her up in the trademark gold Whigham hearse bearing the letter "W."  In the style with which she treated Whitney Houston, Whigham did the same for her daughter.

Whigham wore a cream-colored blazer and slacks that draped over pink Converse sneakers to symbolize Bobbi Kristina's youth. They matched her pink shirt and Bobbi Kristina's casket, which also was the young girl's favorite color.

Funeral directors Terry and Kara Whigham wore cream-colored outfits, as well, with pink pearls, glasses with sparkling pink studs and pink Converse sneakers.

Whigham is known for these special touches, which she says are done to comfort families, or to reflect the personality of the deceased.

In keeping with the presentation, two Tutankhamun sarcophagus were placed at the entrance of the funeral home. The Egyptian theme is carried throughout the building, as a tribute by Whigham to honor the first embalmers.

Next door to the funeral home, fans stood in the parking lot of St. James African Methodist Episcopal Church, taking pictures and recordings with their camera phones.

"I'm very fond of Whitney Houston and Bobbi Kristina,"says Roshan Burns of Newark. "They're like sisters to me. I love the family so much."

And then there was Romanee Lopez, 24, of West Orange, who was in the area for an appointment when she saw news cameras and photographers. Lopez says she is close in age to Bobbi Kristina, watching her grow up as she did.

"It's really tragic what happened to her and her mother," she says. "This is heartbreaking."

The small group of onlookers also watched as Cissy Houston was escorted from the funeral home to a waiting vehicle. Singer Dionne Warwick, who is Whitney's cousin, was there, too.

Whigham and her staff placed Bobbi Kristina's casket into a hearse about 11:30a.m. Then, a contingent of Newark police officers, on motorcycles, led them to Westfield.

At the cemetery, the Revs. John and Lula Baker of Cross and Crown Christian Church in West Orange presided over a somber burial that lasted about 30 minutes.

"This is hard because we have to put ourselves (in that place)... that could be me," Whigham says. "We're getting through it."  

They have no choice.

Last week, Whigham buried somebody's son.

This week, she will bury his mother.

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