The sudden death of Whitney Houston has left her family, friends and fans broken-hearted. And on Friday (February 17), her close friend Ray J finally ended his silence, releasing this statement to MTV News:

"Over the past few days I've tried to process the emptiness that I am experiencing. What my heart feels cannot be expressed in words. The world lost an icon but I lost my close friend. Nippy I miss you so much! You were so happy and full of love. Your smile will live in my heart forever."

The "One Wish" singer was no doubt close to Houston, and while neither ever confirmed a romance, it was widely speculated that he and Houston were an item.

Soon after Houston was found dead in her L.A. hotel room on February 11, reports began to surface that it was Ray J who found her body in a bath tub at the Beverly Hilton. Those reports were quickly refuted by Ray J's representative.

The statement comes just a day before Houston is to be laid to rest following her funeral at Newark, New Jersey's New Hope Baptist Church Saturday at noon.

The funeral is invite-only, but fans will be able to watch an online live stream. New Hope Pastor Joe A. Carter will preside over the ceremony, and gospel singer Marvin Winans will give the eulogy.

People magazine reported on Thursday that Kevin Costner, who co-starred with Houston in the 1992 film "The Bodyguard," will also speak at the funeral.

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