The village of Moulton bowed its head as at least 300 people joined as one inside All Saints Church on Tuesday to remember Claire (50) and Charlotte (19) Hart.
An air of solemn disbelief greeted two wicker-like coffins as they were carried into the church by bearers, including sons and brothers respectively Luke (26) and Ryan (25), four weeks after Claire and Charlotte were fatally shot outside Castle Sports Complex, Spalding.
The funeral service was led by the Rev Rosamund Seal, Rural Dean of Elloe East and Vicar of Holbeach, along with the Rev Barbara Hutchinson.
Mrs Seal said: “We have all gathered here with our hearts and souls burdened by the tragic events of that fateful Tuesday morning, when not only was the unthinkable thought (but) it was put into action and both Claire and Charlotte were tragically taken from us for ever.
“Such events are rare but when they happen to us, to people we live next door to, or down the road from, or went to school with, or worked with, or exchanged pleasantries with as we passed them in the street, we are not only in a state of shock, but also confused and deeply troubled that such extremes of emotion and behaviour can be so close to us and yet we can be so unaware of them.
“We cannot comprehend what circumstances might have led up to, and what depths of emotion might have led someone to do such a terrible thing.
The whole community will need to be unstinting in their love and support for Luke and Ryan, not just in these early days but in the days and weeks and months and years to comeRev Rosamund Seal, Rural Dean of Elloe East and Vicar of Holbeach
“All we can do is weep at the tragic loss of such joy-filled, love-filled and promising lives and pray for all those who are closest to them, particularly Luke and Ryan, coming together to support all those who, in their own way, have been affected by this tragedy and may continue to be affected by it for a long time to come.
“Of course, this includes the staff at Castle Sports Complex, the emergency services, colleagues of Claire’s from Morrison’s in Pinchbeck, Charlotte’s fellow students and staff from Moulton John Harrox Primary School, Spalding High School, Fourwinds Equestrian Centre and Northampton University, residents of Hatt Close, Moulton, and the village, as well as family, neighbours, and friends.
The service included the singing of hymns Amazing Grace and Abide With Me, a reading from the Bible and the playing of “Home” by Michael Buble, one of Claire and Charlotte’s favourite songs.
Mrs Seal said: “The death of Claire and Charlotte is a tragedy that no family should ever suffer and when something as shocking, as cruel and as unexpected as this happens, we are bound to ask ourselves the question ‘Why?’ and wonder where God is in all of this.
“I cannot answer that question, except to say this, that He was there. on that fateful Tuesday morning at the Castle Sports Complex, while the rest of us were still unaware that God’s was probably the first of all our hearts to break.
“Today you weep because of the raw and gaping hole that has ripped apart your lives.
“But one day, one day, you will be able to laugh again at the memories of what filled it.
“There will be times when you feel anger, hatred even, times when you will break down.
“But eventually there will also be times when you can build each other up again, there will be times when you will need to be silent with each other and respect each other’s silence and times when you will need to talk and have that need acknowledged.
“Allow each other whatever time you need as those closest to Claire and Charlotte will need to do a great deal of remembering.
“Some of it will bring laughter, some of it will bring rage and much of it will bring tears, but those tears will eventually help to begin to heal the terrible wounds.”
There was also a tribute from Luke and Ryan, read by Mrs Hutchinson who said: “Mum has always been proud of her children and we were also so proud of her.
“Everything we have achieved is because of her inspiration, her children are all creations of her love, and we’ve never met anyone whose entire existence is love.
“When Charlotte joined us, we couldn’t believe something so beautiful, kind and delicate could exist in our world.
“She inspired us to be the best we could be and we grew into men for her.
“Mum and Charlotte lived through acts of compassion and they were both at their highest when they made others happy.
“Charlotte and mum are more beautiful than words that can be put down both have left their impact on the world.”
It went on: “We can only hope that when our time comes, we have been able to understand life as they did and to give as readily and generously as they did. “Summer’s fragrant flowers are too beautiful and too delicate to survive the cruel winter storms.
“It takes indescribable braveness to choose the vulnerability to be that beautiful in a world that can be so cruel.
“Mum and Charlotte chose to be that beautiful, they transcended life, they learned to create the sun in the winter gloom, they blossomed through every day and night and throughout every season, they created a world that revolved around them and we chose them over the world.”
Extra chairs were needed at the back of the church where guests signed two memorial books at the end of the service which was relayed to people outside All Saints Church.
Those outside heard Mrs Seal as she said: “There are likely to be so very many questions in your minds, so many ‘what ifs’ and so many ‘if onlys’.
“You will have to grieve a future that will now never be, you will have to grieve so many unrealised dreams, you will need to continue to care for each other, even when it is tough and difficult and sustain each other through the hard and challenging times.
“The whole community will need to be unstinting in their love and support for Luke and Ryan, not just in these early days but in the days and weeks and months and years to come.
“Those of us who are Christians believe that God sent His only Son, Jesus Christ, into the world, only to have Him die, hanging from a cross because of the cruelty of other people.
“God knows what it is like to have a child die, God is present in all the suffering of the world and though it may not feel like it yet, God is with each one of you in your grief.
What Claire and Charlotte’s death highlights for us all is this - we cannot ever fully know what goes on in other people’s lives.
“But what we do know is how much they were loved by Luke and Ryan and other members of their family and friends, and how much their love was valued by all who loved them.
“And that can never, ever be taken away.
“Tragedies of this nature affect us all, the world becomes a different placeand those closest to Charlotte and Claire will have to find a way to live in that new reality.
“My prayer for all of you today is that you become the people that help that to happen.”