Mindy McCready's friends, family and fellow artists gathered today at a Nashville church to remember the late country singer and her lifelong love of music in a way that seemed only fitting—through song.
Nearly 300 mourners started filing into the Cathedral of the Incarnation shortly after 1 p.m., the room lined with flowers and portraits of McCready. Once the church's pastor, Rev. Edward F. Steiner had welcomed the crowd, McCready's family started off the tribute by playing a recording of her final song, "I'll See You Yesterday."
Courtney Dashe, who wrote the song, told E! News late last month that she never got to hear the finished version of the tune until the weekend McCready died. "It's got a whole new meaning now and it's a shame. I'm glad she was able to record the song."
Following an introduction and prayer from Steiner, McCready's longtime friend and spokeswoman Kat Atwood was first to pay tribute.
"Mindy had the hope of a bright-eyed child, a spirit unbridled, the strength and courage of a warrior, a weakness for temptations, and a fear of failure and rejection," Atwood said, reading a statement she had prepared. "She possessed both the look of 'old Hollywood' and extraordinary, award-winning talent. She enjoyed insurmountable successes, hopeless and never-ending love, endured unthinkable personal conflict and contradiction, and crippling loss.
"Mindy was witty; she was clever; she was a wild cat; she was a lady. From the outside looking in, Mindy was both invincible and vulnerable. With all that was laid before her in such little time, I know I could not have walked in her shoes...Music was her life, her therapy, her victory, her escape and her tragedy."
McCready's father did not attend, though a friend of the family spoke on his behalf, explaining that it was too emotionally difficult for Tim McCready to be there in person.
Her family "watched her go down hill quickly and they tried all they knew," family spokesperson Tristan White said at the service. "They wished they could have saved her but Mindy wanted to go home to Jesus and David."
David Wilson, McCready's boyfriend and the father of her younger son, had shot himself to death five weeks before she took her own life, a tragedy that several of McCready's friends blamed for her ultimately irreversible downward spiral.
Country artist Bryan White sang "What I Already Know," by Point of Grace. Later on, Lorrie Morgan, a former labelmate of McCready's at RCA, performed "Ave Maria," and onetime Fleetwood Mac member Bekka Bramlett crooned "How Great Thou Art."
"She had everyone sing together," an eyewitness said of Bramlett's performance. "It was really cool. Even though the cathedral was big, it felt warm, intimate and unifying."
Morgan told those assembled that she and McCready has "a lot in common—music and heartache."
"Mindy was funny, sexy and talented," she said, recalling how she and McCready would get scolded following RCA parties for clothing that was "a little light on material" and having one too many tequilas.
"She had soul in her eyes," Morgan said of her late friend. "But in her eyes, I could always see sadness...a soul crying for help. She tried to take care of the world and I, in part, could closely relate to Mindy and her world of duties and the people she felt responsible for. We had so much in common and I wanted to take care of her—but that would have been like the blind leading the blind."
Friend Jimmy Nichols recalled the first time he heard McCready sing her debut single, "Ten Thousand Angels."
"At only 19, she seemed strangely able to relate to these words," he said. "About as strange as it is for me today to be talking about her in past tense. There has been a lot of press about Mindy's so-called troubled past. I find it interesting to think that her short, two year, powerful and extraordinary career made her relevant to the industry and the public as a recording artist, public figure and superstar, yet the last 14 years of 'trash talking' made her relevant to headlines world wide."
"I think Mindy's legacy should be that we all should strive to love each other in spite of our flaws," Nichols concluded. "We should judge less and support more—especially within our own community. We should look deeper into the lives of those of us who cry out for help and see if there isn't more that we can do to make a difference in other's lives, even if it means some sacrifices within our own. And last but not least...love like it's the last day on earth.
"Rest well, Mindy. You have so many angels guarding your soul tonight."
McCready's loved ones then filed out of the church to the strains of her singing "The Dance" and "Both Sides Now."
Her family had asked that, in lieu of flowers, mourners make donations to the Official Fund for the Benefit and Care of Zander and Zayne, McCready's two children. They were not at the memorial.
family started off the tribute by playing a recording of her final song, "I'll See You Yesterday."
"The service was stunning," the eyewitness, who said country singers Ty Herndon and Collin Raye were also in attendnace, told E! News. "It was everything we envision Mindy would have wanted. It was beautiful, simple, moving and touching."
—Reporting by Holly Passalaqua and Senta Scarborough