'Je t'aime papa': Rene Angelil remembered as loving father at funeral
Published Friday, January 22, 2016 4:29AM EST
Last Updated Friday, January 22, 2016 10:27PM EST
Hundreds gathered in Montreal Friday afternoon to say goodbye to Rene Angelil, music producer and Celine Dion’s husband.
Although Dion did not speak at the funeral, the couple’s eldest son, Rene-Charles, drew laughter and tears with a short speech that ended with the words, “Je t’aime papa.”
Angelil died of throat cancer last week at the age of 73 and was given the honour of a national funeral by Quebec’s National Assembly.
Dion, Rene-Charles and the couple’s five-year-old twin boys, Nelson and Eddy, arrived outside Notre-Dame Basilica shortly before 3 p.m., along with members of the extended family.
The family entered the church at 3:20 p.m. accompanied by a French recording of Dion’s 1984 song “Twenty Minutes Past Three.”
Dion placed black flowers on a cushion atop Angelil’s casket. It was the same cushion used for the couple’s wedding bands when they were married in the basilica on Dec. 17, 1994.
The first to speak was Angelil’s son from his first marriage, Patrick Angelil, who remembered his father as a man who loved to “eat, loved to share and play blackjack.”
“We were always able to call upon his wisdom,” he said in French. “He taught us that we have to treat others as we want to be treated.”
Rene-Charles spoke next. “Fifteen years is not a long time for a son to get to know his father,” he said, adding that they had bonded over “golf, hockey, poker and smoked meat.”
Rene-Charles promised to pass on what he had learned from his father to his younger brothers. “Dad, I promise you here that we are all going to live up to your standards,” he added. “Je t’aime papa.”
That was followed by a recording of Dion’s song “All the Way,” then a song from a boys’ choir, more songs and prayers.
One was led by Julie Belanger, who prayed not only for Angelil, but also for those who suffer from disease and those who are forced by conflict to flee their lands and seek refuge.
After giving communion, Archbishop of Montreal Christian Lepine asked God to let “our brother Rene reach the table prepared in your house.”
That was followed by a recording of Dion’s 1991 song “L’amour existe encore,” which translates to “Love still exists.”
The Archbishop blessed Angelil’s body with incense and holy water, while singer Caroline Bleau performed the song “Pie Jesu.”
Lepine invited Couillard to the front of the church, where he offered his condolences to Dion and Rene-Charles on behalf of the province.
In the final prayer, the Archbishop said in French that “death has tested us, but we know that you are the source of life and happiness is within you.”
Angelil’s coffin was led out of the church to a recording of Dion’s uplifting “Pour que tu m'aimes encore,” which translates to “For you to love me again.”
The coffin was placed in a hearse outside the church while photographers snapped pictures of Dion and her sons saying goodbye.
The singer lingered briefly, turned to look back at the basilica, and made the sign of the cross before getting into a waiting vehicle.
Among the dignitaries present were Sophie Gregoire-Trudeau, Heritage Minister Melanie Joly, Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre, former prime minister Brian Mulroney and NDP Leader Tom Mulcair.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
Hockey heavyweights were also in attendance, including former Montreal Canadiens goalie Jose Theodore and current head coach Michel Therrien, and Michel Bergeron, who coached the Quebec Nordiques.
In Quebec City, the flag at the legislature is flying at half-mast.
Another celebration of Angelil's life will take place Feb. 3 at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas.