Before she died, Whitney Houston had quit smoking and was getting in shape in preparation for a big comeback in August.
The I Will Always Love You singer told her mentor, music mogul Clive Davis, that she was eyeing a summer return to the pop charts just days before she was found dead in the bathtub in her hotel suite at Los Angeles' Beverly Hilton.
Davis was one of the speakers at her funeral service at the New Hope Baptist Church in her native Newark, New Jersey on Saturday (, and he smiled as he remembered Houston's outstanding vocal talents and career achievements.
He told mourners, "You wait for a voice like that for a lifetime. You wait for a face like that, a smile like that, a presence like that, for a lifetime. When one person embodies it all, it takes your breath away...
"When she broke that all-time record of seven consecutive number ones, we just felt utter disbelief. I would ask her, 'Are you pinching yourself?' And she would say, with wide-open eyes, 'I'm pinching myself.' She never took anything for granted. She was never arrogant. She was always appreciative...
"Personally, all I can say is that I loved her very much. Whitney was purely and simply one of a kind. Yes she admitted to crazies in her life. Yes she admitted to Oprah (Winfrey) about her battles. But when I needed her, she was there. She was there for me, an eternally loyal friend... And Bobby Kristina (Houston's daughter), you too, always, always be proud of your mother. She loved you so very much. She defined not only pure talent, but true heart and soul as well. She'll forever be looking after you, and will never let go of your hand."
Davis then went on to recall one of his last conversations with Houston, in which the superstar revealed she was getting ready to step back into the spotlight, three years after the release of her last album I Look to You, in 2009.
He said, "Last week Whitney came to my hotel bungalow alone - no bodyguards, no security, just Whitney and me... She looked at me and quietly said, 'I want you to know I'm getting in shape. I'm swimming an hour or two a day and I'm committed to get my high notes back - no cigarettes - plenty of vocal exercising - Clive, I'll be ready by August.' Well, Whitney I'm gonna hold you to it. Everyone in heaven - including God - is waiting. And I just know you're gonna raise the roof like no one has ever done before."
Other stars at the private memorial service included Houston's gospel singer mother Cissy, her cousin Dionne Warwick, family friends Stevie Wonder and filmmaker Tyler Perry, and singers Alicia Keys, Mary J. Blige and Mariah Carey.