FORT WORTH, Texas — Again, the strong and stoic Army colonel stood before a mass of mourners.
He held it together as muffled cries and sniffles leaked out from the crowd. He spoke not of death, crime or anger, but life.
"As I mourn the loss of my two children, my deeply beloved children, I'm comforted that they have been welcomed on the other side," said Col. Parker Schenecker at the funeral service for his two children, Beau and Calyx, ages 13 and 16.
For a few seconds, Schenecker found a smile.
"I know my children were loved," he said. "They knew they were loved."
Tuesday afternoon's funeral service at Christ Chapel Bible Church in Schenecker's hometown drew a crowd of hundreds to grieve the teens who were found dead at their Tampa Palms North home on Jan. 28.
Tampa police say their mother, Julie Powers Schenecker, 50, admitted to shooting and killing them in a plan she referred to in a note as a "massacre."
She remains behind bars without bail on two first-degree murder charges, awaiting trial.
At a memorial service last week in Temple Terrace, a slew of classmates and teachers spoke in depth about Calyx and Beau. Tuesday, only Schenecker and a pastor addressed the crowd.
There were no caskets in the church; the teenagers had been buried at a private ceremony in Fort Worth earlier that day.
The same poignantly short photo slideshow was shown at both services — baby Beau on the beach, Calyx in a fairy costume, school yearbook photos and action shots from Calyx's track meets and Beau's soccer games.
The Rev. Ted Kitchens said that though it's impossible to understand how God could allow a tragic end to such brief lives, everything — good and bad — is part of a grand plan.
Calyx and Beau are not hurting, Kitchens said. They are looking over their shoulders, and "they see us coming."
Kitchens remembered Calyx and Beau as leaders.
Calyx recently helped organize a fundraiser relay for the American Cancer Society that netted more than $100,000. Beau was known for his energy and his sensitivity toward others.
"What could have been," the pastor said, "is remarkable."
In a statement released after the service, Schenecker vowed to stay involved in activities and causes that were important to his kids. He encouraged people to give to the Calyx and Beau Schenecker Memorial Fund at the Community Foundation of Tampa Bay, which will be used to improve the lives of others.
But it was Schenecker's words during the service that would linger after the church emptied.
"Hug your children every chance you get," he urged, his voice cracking. "Draw your loved ones closer to you than you ever have before, so you may give love and feel love.
"And, if I may be so bold, if this grieving dad can ask you one thing, remember Calyx and Beau Schenecker and rejoice for having known them."
With that, he bit his lip and returned to his seat.
Kim Wilmath can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 661-2442.