Paper butterflies showered a teary-eyed audience and tunes that Jenni Rivera made famous were sung by family and friends. And while Jenni Rivera’s hit “Cuando Muere Una Dama” (“When a Lady Dies”) played over the loudspeakers, family members kissed the brilliant red casket that held the singer’s remains as fans approached the stage at the Gibson Amphitheater in Los Angeles to pay their respects to an icon gone far too soon.
“It’s just a real honor to say that Jenni Rivera that everyone is talking about is my mom,” said Rivera’s youngest son Johnny López Rivera, who was dressed in a white suit and gloves. “She still lives in me.”
Each of the members of Rivera’s family – her five children, two grandchildren, parents, four brothers and sister – were dressed in different shades of white and red and took their seats on a stage in front of some 6,000 fans. Between musical numbers played by a banda on stage, various relatives came forward to address the audience while a single microphone stood behind Rivera’s red casket.
“There will never be enough words to describe my mother,” said 27-year-old Chiquis. “Because for me, she was the best.”
Chiquis – who had been accused by mother Jenni of sleeping with her ex-husband, MLB star Esteban Marin shortly before her death – cried as she said her mother’s passing was the “hardest thing she’s ever had to face.”
Even so, she added, “all I hear in my mind all day is, ‘Chiquis, you have to be strong.’”
Rivera’s strength was a frequent topic of reference by her family members during their tributes, as they recalled the singer’s beautiful voice and powerful spirit.
Rivera’s mother Rosa Saavedra offered her own touching insight as to her daughter’s inspiration to fight through many challenges, including physical abuse at the hands of her first husband, José Trinidad Marín.
“She’d say mom, ‘you’re so strong – give me your strength,’” recalled Saavedra. And I’d say, ‘I gave it to you, you have it.’”
“The best thing you’ve ever taught me is that when you fall you get back up,” said eldest daughter Jacqueline Marín Rivera, who fought back tears as she spoke. “That’s what I’m going to do and I’m going to live with no fear because that’s the way you lived. You never had fear and if you did, you didn’t show it.”
During touching tributes offered by family members and songs performed by singers Olga Tanon and Joan Sebastian, stars in the audience – including Kate del Castillo and Rivera’s “Filly Brown” co-stars Edward James Olmos and Lou Diamond Phillips – wiped away tears.
And while emotions ran high during the two hour-long memorial, there were many elements carefully incorporated into the program as per Rivera’s specifications. Fans were asked to bring white roses, which were heaped on the 43-year-old’s casket, and white butterflies were released from the ceiling during the end of the service. The details – and Rivera’s request that norteña-style music be played at her memorial – were all woven into the lyrics from the Mexican American singer’s hit “Cuando Muere Una Dama” (“When a Lady Dies”).
“I want one last party at my funeral, where everyone can celebrate and remember my smile and the way I cry,” read some of the lyrics from the song. And true to those lyrics, the memorial blended elements of mourning and celebration, with closing prayers by brother and minister Pedro Rivera, Jr.
“Jenni, I will miss you, but you will always be in my heart,” said older brother Lupillo Rivera, who hid his tears behind large sunglasses as he spoke on stage.
”I always admired you and no one will equal you. I love you.”