Celine Dion is suffering through the heartbreak of losing her great love, husband René Angélil, but she's not doing it alone. On Thursday (Jan. 21) the star received an outpouring of love from fans during the public visitation at the Notre-Dame Basilica in Montreal. "The support we have received has been such a blessing," the star told People.
That support was certainly evident at the open-coffin service. Hundreds of mourners flocked to the basilica, braving hours in the cold to pay their respects to the 73-year-old music manager, and offer their condolences to his grieving widow and children.
"Celine is Quebec. She is an ambassador for Quebec. And this was her great love and we had to be there for her," Judith Picard told People of her decision to wait three hours to meet the singer.
"They're inseparable – they're like one people, and now she has lost half of herself. So I feel for her. And he was such a great man, and he was such a great soul. We had to celebrate his life coming here today."
She added, "You could tell our love was helping her – she was taking it in."
Another well-wisher, Mary Belisle, also waited to offer her sympathies to the 47-year-old star. "I did tell Celine, 'Thank you for being here' because she's receiving everyone, one person at a time, and she's taking more of her time.
"That's why we kind of froze for hours before getting inside: it was worth it because it wasn't like in and out, in and out. She actually took the time; she shook our hand, and some actually kissed her," she said. "It was very personal words, even the eye contact. She was very sincere."
René's funeral will take place at 3 p.m. on Friday in the Notre-Dame Basilica, where he and Celine were married in 1994.