He loved the Bible, especially the King James Version, Smith said.
Smith recalled that one of Byrd's favorite sections of scripture was John, chapter 11, in which Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead.
Lazarus emerges from the tomb bound in burial cloth.
"Loose him," Jesus says, "and let him go."
Smith said that phrase is carved on the tombstone at the grave where Byrd and his wife are buried.
The service opened with a 21-person choir, in maroon robes, singing, "What a Friend We Have in Jesus." Smith recited the 23d Psalm, and the choir sang the old hymn, "There is a Fountain."
Two of Byrd's fellow musicians, fourth-generation fiddler Bobby Taylor and guitarist Andrew Dunlap, both of whom had played with the senator in the past, performed a haunting version of "Amazing Grace." Byrd was a noted fiddler in his day, and relatives recalled that he was dismayed when hand tremors finally halted his playing.
He still was able to sing, though.
The senator's family members rose and spoke of the kindly patriarch they called Papa, a man so powerful he could help create laws but so befuddled around the kitchen that he could not correctly brew tea.
His daughter, Marjorie Moore, said he would have wanted the speakers "to talk about Erma some." She did so by reciting a poem he wrote her in 1933 when he was 15 -- the "girl named Erma James."
They were married for 69 years.
Family members recalled how he mopped floors and cleaned bathrooms after his wife got sick, and how, as she was dying, he held her hand and told her he loved her.
After she died, he was so grief-stricken that would often tell visitors how many days it had been since she had passed away.
The Rev. Thomas Phythian, a hospice chaplain and Byrd family acquaintance, referenced the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 25, in which man is urged to make the most of his talents.
Byrd "certainly didn't bury any of his talents in the back yard," Phythian said. "He set the bar high for himself and others to follow."
At his burial in Columbia Gardens Cemetery, he was given a 21-gun salute, and two flags that had been draped over his coffin were given to his two daughters.
"We are grateful to God for him," Smith had said earlier. "Thanks be to God for your servant, Robert."