In front of the rose-colored casket sat the mementos of Carla McKishnie's short life: A University of Florida diploma and framed photographs of the smiling woman with light-brown hair. More than 250 people came Wednesday to bid a quiet goodbye to McKishnie, a 22-year-old UF student from Brandon who was strangled along with her roommate last week in Gainesville.
At the Stowers Funeral Home, more than 100 flower arrangements lined the walls and the floor, filling the room with their cool fragrance.
Friends and family wept quietly, barely audible during the 10 a.m. service.
"Carla McKishnie and Eleanor Grace were both such beautiful young girls. Happy to be alive, with so much to offer," said the Rev. Karl Ribbeck, of the Shepherd of the Hills Lutheran Church in Dade City.
"There was no good reason for the death of Carla McKishnie. She not only loved life . . . but she was a ray of sunshine in your lives."
Ribbeck said people who knew McKishnie felt "shock, anger, disbelief" at the senseless killings.
"But I do not want to hear that it must have been God's will," he said. "God is saddened by this day."
From the audience came a man's quiet voice saying, "Amen."
Ribbeck recalled that McKishnie was in Gainesville to continue her graduate studies in education and wanted to teach elementary-schoolchildren.
McKishnie, the daughter of Murray and Carol McKishnie, was a 1987 graduate of Brandon Senior High School and graduated from UF this spring.
She turned 22 in April.
He read a message from McKishnie's mother, who wrote, "Carla had a collection of mementos and her life was filled with things she did for others. So we now have these treasures to store in our hearts and she is enjoying heavenly treasures."
After the service, guests filed past the closed casket topped with sprays of pink carnations and roses.
On a table in front sat photographs, including one of people on the beach and a portrait of McKishnie, along with her bachelor's degree diploma.
Once outside, men sobbed aloud with grief and families held each other on the lawn under the tall oaks.
Ribbeck asked the grief-stricken to think of McKishnie's life, as well as her death.
"Let us pause and give thanks to God for the 22 short years that he gave her, and you, to love."
_ By SALLY HICKS