It has come to light that the myriad details of how Rene Angelil orchestrated his funeral to spare Celine Dion the grief and heartache were complete down to the number of TV cameras —13 — used to broadcast it via live stream to fans worldwide and even where mourners would sit.
Rene decreed that Celine would walk into the Notre Dame cathedral in Montreal at exactly 3:20 p.m. to her song “Trios Heures Vingt (Twenty Minutes Past Three).” Rene also selected Celine’s duet on “All the Way” with Frank Sinatra, the family’s favorite song, and two other French-language hits "Lamour existe encore" ,"Pour que tu m'aimes encore" to be played during the service.
Also at his request, his coffin stood in the exact spot of the same basilica where the couple had married in a lavish wedding 21 years earlier. Celine placed his favorite deep purple calla lilies on a pillow atop the black coffin.
That pillow was the one that held their wedding rings during the December 17, 1994 ceremony. Celine’s niece Audrey and nephew Jimmy led the Friday funeral processional into the church at Rene’s request because they served as the flower girl and ring bearer at the wedding. At the end of the service conducted by the Archbishop of Montreal, Celine untied Rene’s wedding ring from the pillow and placed it on her own finger.
“It was all Rene’s design to help ease the grief and heartache that Celine would go through,” said her Las Vegas friend Julie Snyder in Montreal. Caesars Palace execs and AEG officials attended, along with former Bally’s headliner Veronic and her husband, Ramon. My Vegas DeLuxe observer Jamie Bainum was among those who made the trek to Montreal to pay her respect and condolences to Celine:
“Being in Montreal to experience Rene’s Chapel of Rest and funeral was an extremely overwhelming experience that will be forever embedded in my mind. Watching Celine and Rene’s love, the openness of their life, their trials, their tribulations over the past 20 years has always been the reason I was such a big fan, not just the music. Celine allowing her fans to give their support to her and say goodbye to Rene in person was an honor.
“Watching Celine greet people for more than five hours while I sat in a pew 10 feet away showed what a remarkable woman she is. One of the biggest artists in the world receiving hundreds of people one by one, holding their hands, hugging them, staring them in the eyes and listening to every word they said was incredible. She was supposed to stay for 30 minutes. She stayed more than eight hours.
“Saying goodbye to Rene at the funeral was for sure the hardest moment of her life. She was so solemn and sad walking down the aisle with her children but still elegant and in bearing exquisite. Rene-Charles has grown into such a loving young man. The way he supported his mom during the service and his speech showed he is growing up to be just like his father.
“When Celine was standing outside and laid her arms on the casket and kissed it, my heart broke for her. It was a moment of pain, and the realization I would never see them together again. The love that has always inspired me through my own life has come to the end, but the memories will live on forever.
“I have a whole new love and respect for Celine after the last two days. I thought that the love and respect I had for her could grow no more. It is now on a whole new level. I will support her for the rest of my life. Rene-Charles was composed and well spoken during his speech about his father. I was moved when he spoke about passing on his father’s teachings to his younger brothers.
“He ended his speech with a sweet ‘Je t’aime, Papa —“I love you, Dad.” It was one of the most touching moments and drew laughter and tears from the congregation. After his tribute, Celine gave him a warm hug before he walked over to hug his big brother Patrick. It was very touching.
"The twins were extremely well behaved throughout the service. Their outfits were adorable. They sat in between their mother and Aunt Linda. Celine’s mother’s strength is remarkable, being there to support her daughter while simultaneously grieving her son, Daniel, whose visitation and funeral followed over the weekend.
“There was a brief moment during the service when Celine reached back to hold her mother Therese’s hand for courage and love. Right after ‘L’amour Existe Encore’, Mama Dion got up and gave Celine a soft kiss on the cheek and tenderly whispered something in her ear, a sweet moment.
“On the day of the funeral, her walking toward the casket with her children beside her was a surreal sense of sadness knowing she wasn’t just Celine Dion the artist. She is now a widow. The church was silent as the mourners watched with grief in their eyes and hearts for her. You could see throughout the church everyone was astounded by Celine’s selflessness, to share this personal and intimate moment with the world.
“The final farewell was the most emotional. The last walk. His last walk. His last stroll with his wife. The church full of mourners applauded his last goodbye. The applause rose to a mighty roar, an overpouring of love to Celine and her family as she and Rene departed the church for the last time.
“Farewell, Rene. RIP. It had all gone smoothly, exactly as he had planned it.”
Celine followed the coffin to its final resting at a family hilltop cemetery plot, then the next day had to handle the second ordeal of the visitation ceremony for her brother Daniel who died also from cancer two days after Rene’s death. Presumably exhausted and grief-stricken, Celine opted out of attending a fourth consecutive day of services.
She will return to Las Vegas in a week and prepare for the “Celebration of Life” gathering she will host at the Colosseum in Caesars Palace. She’s set to resume performances of her residency February 23.2016.
The most poignant and emotional words from Celine were in her funeral program note: “I understood that my career was in a way his masterpiece, his song, his symphony. The idea of leaving it unfinished would have hurt him terribly. I realized that if he ever left us, I would have to continue without him — for him.”