March 12, 2012 at 7:43 AM ET
Whitney Houston’s family has offered few words since the singer’s untimely passing in February, but opened up for the first time on Sunday in a sentimental interview with Oprah Winfrey for OWN.
Speaking on the revelation and impact of Houston’s death, her relationship with Bobby Brown, and even the leaked casket photo, Houston’s daughter, Bobbi Kristina Brown, her brother, Gary Houston, and sister-in-law, Patricia Houston, all sat down with Winfrey at their home in Atlanta to address the pop star’s passing in a special airing of “Oprah’s Next Chapter.” The family was generally in good spirits, as Winfrey turned focus primarily to the emotional toll the death was playing on all of them, and their method of coping with the loss.
For Bobbi Kristina, Whitney’s memory is nearly as strong as her life.
“She would say at 5 a.m. the saints start praying,” said the 19-year-old, only daughter of the pop star. “I wake up now and look at the clock and it's 5 o'clock. I start praying."
Bobbi Kristina told Winfrey she’s managing as best she can, that she’s “just trying to keep going” and feels her mother’s lingering presence around her, even in the form of flickering lights.
“I can hear her voice telling me to 'keep moving, baby, I gotcha.' She's always with me. I can always feel her with me,” she explained, mentioning she aimed to further her mother’s legacy through her own career in singing and acting. Of her lasting memory with Whitney the day before she died, Bobbi Kristina commented, "I went to go get her ... I said, 'Come lay down with me.' She stayed with me all night and all day, rubbing my head. I slept in her arms. All day, all night."
Winfrey saved the more probing questions for Gary and Patricia, asking them to recount the day Whitney died and to touch on reports she’d been abusing drugs and alcohol throughout the prior week. Patricia, who managed Whitney for 20 years, responded saying she didn’t know for certain, but doubted Whitney could have hid the fact she was on drugs with so much on her plate and so many people surrounding her.
On the day of her death, Whitney’s sister-in-law was staying at the Beverly Hilton a floor below her, and had left briefly to run errands during the time the singer was found. She returned to discover Whitney’s assistant screaming in the hall.
"I knew something was wrong. I didn't know what. I was just numb,” Patricia remembered, beginning to cry. Whitney’s bodyguard attempted to revive her "to the point of exhaustion,” along with a team of paramedics, but it was too late.
“I saw them cover her up and I knew that was it,” said Patricia.
When asked whether he saw it coming, Whitney’s older brother said the news was a total shock, and while there was always a fear of the inevitable, it was only their mother, Cissy, who predicted Whitney would not be with the family for long. Winfrey also mentioned Cissy in the special, noting she’d asked her to speak as well, but the matriarch was not ready.
“I asked her how she was doing, and she said, 'I’m not,'” remarked Winfrey.
The family appeared to be angrier with the tabloids for publishing Whitney’s casket photo than they were with the person who took the picture, calling the press “intrusive and wicked.” However, despite the incessant rumors and questions, they said they felt they’d found closure with her passing.
Bobbi Kristina agreed that she had “accepted” her mother’s death and knew she must move forward.
In regards to Bobby Brown, Gary and Pat dismissed any rumors he wasn’t invited to the funeral, Gary even saying he loved Brown.
“Bobby Brown was supposed to be there,” Gary stressed. "Bobby was a good guy. I don't know how good they were for each other."
Furthermore, they do not blame Brown for Whitney’s demons, Pat commenting, “I can't say he introduced drugs to her. I don't think that's true."
The interview concluded with Gary singing one of Whitney’s later hits, “I Look To You,” breaking down into tears on the last verse.