"Remember that the power of love and creation will always triumph over the power of destruction and revenge."
With those words, Walter Mikac held out a message of hope in the terrible aftermath of the Port Arthur massacre.
Mr Mikac, whose wife Nanette, 36, and daughters Alannah, 6, and Madeline, 3, died with 32 others at Port Arthur last month, shared his anguish and revealed a rare courage at their funeral in Melbourne yesterday.
The service also heard pleas for Australia to ihave stricter gun controls.
More than 1000 people gathered for the service at the Austin Hospital, where Mr and Mrs Mikac met and once worked.
Media groups shared reporter and photographers to remain unobtrusive and attended after consultations with Mr Mikac.
Mr Mikac spoke at the funeral in a [voice] which wavered only when he spoke of wondering if his family had known the depth of his love for them.
As he stood beside the coffins of his wife and young daughter, he shared his memories of his family.
"As I think of my beloved Nanette and my two beautiful daughters Alannah and Madeline, the memories flood in," he said.
"The air I breathe, the sky I see, the soft skin to touch, the bodies to feel at night, the steps I take, the ground I feel.
"These are the thoughts that come back, and they cannot be erased -- the sounds and noises of every living moment."
The service also heard a similarly heartfelt call for politicians to impose tringent gun laws.
Pastor Allan Anderson, who jointly conducted the service with Father Colin Bourke, the priest who married the Mikacs 10 years ago, implored the congregation to keep alive its memory of the Port Arthur massacre.
"Use the power of that vision to bring about change," Pastor Anderson said.
"Do not let your anger be wasted on revenge; rather let it grow into such a power of love that nothing will weaken your resolve to rid our nation of these terrible weapons of destruction.
"To our national leaders, we say: 'Do not trade your votes for lives. Hold to your resolve to deal with this menace of unnecessary fire-arms in our society'.
"Listen not to the loud calls of the few who want to selfishly keep their weapons, but instead hear the cries of those who have died, listen to the quiet sobs of those who live, see the majority who stand with them." But it was the courage and inspiration of Mr Mikac that touched most deeply the hundreds of mourners, many of whom had spilled outside on to the lawns and gardens.
Speaking in a hall at the hospital where he and his wife had shared many of their early days as actors in the hospital's theatre group, Mr Mikac asked that love be allowed to triumph over all other feelings.
Struggling to contain his emotions, he spoke of his doubts, fears and, finaly the small relief he had experienced in the days since he lost his family.
"Remember that the power of love and creation will always triumph over the power of destruction and revenge," he said.
"It is the spirit that Alannah left me in her diary. The theme that appears on every page is love.
"My initial thought in this regard was one of doubt as I asked myself, 'Did they know how much I really loved them?'"
He said his answer had come as he looked through Alannah's drawings.
"I found one that simply said: 'I love you Mum and Dad, and I know you love me. Love Alannah'.
"I felt as though I was a dove that had been set free.
"Celebrate life and let it continue, Amen."
"We did not die"
When you waken in the morning's hush,
Do not stand at our grave and weep,
We are not there, we do not sleep.
We are a thousands winds that blow,
We are the diamond glints on snow.
We are the sunlight on ripened grain,
We are the gentle autumn's rain.
We are the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circling flight,
We are the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at our graves and cry,
We are not there. We did not die.
(Author unknown. Adapted)
When you waken in the morning's hush,
[images: "Epitaph for a loving daughter: The picture, above [15.5x19], that little Alannah drew in February was reproduced in yesterday's funeral program along with the poem, below. Right [4.5x6]: The Mikac family outside their Nubeena pharmacy."
"Mr. Mikac yesterday." (4x5)
"Walter Mikac, centre, is comforted by his brother John, on his left, and other mourners at the funeral." (17x12.5) ]